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Arson at Assam rail station
- Students prime suspects

Nagaon/Silchar, Nov. 7: A railway station in Assam’s North Cachar Hills district was partially damaged today when suspected student activists set it ablaze.

The incident took place during the 36-hour bandh called by the All Dimasa Students’ Union in protest against the government’s reluctance to accede to the community’s demand for a separate state called Dimaraji. The bandh ended at 5pm.

Railway spokesman T. Rabha said a mob entered Bagetar station, under Lumding division, around 1pm and set the station on fire, using vehicle tyres.

“Our employees managed to escape but property, including furniture and telephones, were damaged,” he said.

The burst of arson disrupted train services between Jatinga and Lower Haflong for several hours, he added.

A senior police official said over phone from Haflong that a team of railway and police officials arrived immediately, chased away the mob and doused the fire “which had just started”.

He said there was no casualty and no one had been arrested.

“We have identified the persons involved in the incident and have launched a manhunt to arrest them.”

There has been a spate of violence in the district since elections to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council were announced.

The council polls were originally scheduled for June 26, but postponed after militants killed chief executive member Purnendu Langthasa and three others. The election dates were rescheduled to November 26 and December 1.

Dima Halam Daogah militants (the anti-talks faction, led by Jewel Gorlosa) gunned down a Congress candidate, Darbitham Hmar, and three others on Sunday.

The election in Hmar’s constituency, Lower Kharthong, has since been countermanded.

Yesterday, protesters disrupted rail services during the bandh. Several persons were injured in clashes between bandh supporters and those opposing it.

The disturbance raised questions about the administration’s ability to hold fair and free elections to the council. Dispur, however, promised to help the state election commission hold the polls as scheduled.

Although the ruling Congress is keen on holding the elections, party workers want the process to be postponed, fearing that militants might target them.

The 28-seat council is at present under the administrative control of Raj Bhawan.

Raj Bhawan sources said Governor Ajai Singh was out of station and would return tomorrow. He will visit North Cachar Hills from November 15-17.

North Cachar Hills deputy commissioner Anil Kumar Borua and superintendent of police Dipak Kedia may have a lot of answering to do when Singh makes the visit.

Apart from Dimaraji, the Dimasa student union’s demands include preservation of monuments within the boundary of the ancient Dimasa kingdom, comprising parts of Assam (North Cachar Hills and regions of Karbi Anglong, Cachar and Nagaon districts) and Dimapur in Nagaland .

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