The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dispur rally runs amok Curfew, bandh choke Guwahati

Guwahati, Nov. 24: Indefinite curfew was imposed at Beltola, close to the Dispur capital complex, this afternoon after violent clashes broke out between Adivasi protesters and local residents. Officials said one person died and nearly 250 were injured while unofficial sources put the death toll at seven.

The All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) has called a 36-hour statewide bandh, starting from 5am on Monday, in protest against the incident.

Trouble started when thousands of activists of the Adivasi association marched towards Dispur after holding a rally at Bongaon High School ground in Beltola to demand Scheduled Tribe status for the community at 11am.

Some of the processionists were allegedly armed with bows, arrows and canes and started damaging vehicles and vandalising shops as they proceeded towards Dispur.

Nearly 60 vehicles and shops were damaged as the Adivasis went on a rampage along Beltola-Basistha Road.

The protesters were about to reach the capital complex when police reinforcements arrived. The police caned the protesters and fired teargas shells.

The protesters ran for cover, escaping through the bylanes. It was then that the local residents, who were enraged by the vandalism, retaliated and assaulted the protesters.

The 3.5-km stretch of road from Beltola Tinali to Dispur Last Gate turned into a battle zone for over three hours as the processionists and local residents clashed.

“The police were mere spectators when the AASAA activists attacked vehicles and shops,” said Amulya Hazarika, a resident of the Survey area. The police said they had no information that the Adivasi activists would take out such a huge procession.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi tonight came out in support of the local administration, stating that no permission had been granted for the rally. “The magistrate on duty prevented the participants from taking out the rally, but they forced past him and entered the Dispur area. The processionists were the first to indulge in vandalism,” a release issued by the chief minister’s office said.

Appealing for peace, Gogoi reviewed the situation and asked additional chief secretary P.P. Verma to probe the incident and submit his report “immediately”. The government has announced a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured.

Major parts of the city observed a spontaneous bandh after getting news of the incident. Several offices were declared closed since 2pm.

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