The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dispur braces for backlash Security in bandh wake

Nov. 25: Assam is bracing for a fiery Adivasi backlash to the mob attack that left a trail of bloodied faces, broken bones and bruised sentiments along a three-km stretch of road leading to the capital complex this weekend.

Accused of doing little to prevent the arson by Adivasi activists demanding Scheduled Tribe status and the retaliatory action by residents whose property was damaged, the government today deployed contingents of security personnel in all Adivasi-dominated areas of the state to keep the flames from spreading.

The All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam, which was behind the rally, called a 36-hour statewide bandh from 5am tomorrow. The Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association, too, warned the government of “repercussions”. The organisation said it was finding it difficult to restrain members of the community — most of the tea tribes are of Adivasi origin — from avenging the mob attack on the rallyists. It also declared that it would observe Wednesday as a “black day” to protest the incident.

Though official reports peg the toll at one, Adivasi organisations claimed that many of those who fled from the violent mob in Beltola last afternoon are missing.

Under fire for the embarrassing intelligence and police lapse which led to the unrest, Dispur reacted with time-tested and convenient measures: transferring the officer-in-charge of Basistha police station and suspending a sub-inspector of Dispur police station for negligence of duty.

“We are aware of the possible ramifications of yesterday’s incident. We have issued a high alert across the state and directed all deputy commissioners and superintendents of police to ensure that peace and tranquillity are maintained,” health minister and government spokesperson Himanta Biswa Sarma said at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital this afternoon.

Official sources said security personnel — both state police and central forces — have been deployed in “adequate numbers” at vulnerable spots. The army has also been kept on standby.

The students’ organisation warned that the state government would be responsible for “untoward incidents” if any, in the 800-odd tea estates dominated by Adivasi labourers. “We have appealed to all our district units to restrain the community members so that they do not indulge in violent activities. The situation in the gardens is very tense,” general secretary of ATTSA Pallab Lochan Das told The Telegraph. A team led by Das has been camping at GMCH to monitor the facilities being provided to the injured.

“We have asked labour leaders not to allow the workers to join the picketers who might go on the rampage tomorrow,” a manager of a tea garden in Tinsukia said.

Smarting from the bruises, the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam warned that “it would not spare anybody trying to defy the bandh call”. Activists of the association today chased away Congress workers who assembled at Nandanban tea estate in Dibrugarh for a party meeting on the panchayat polls.

The Asom Gana Parishad, too, declared that it would observe tomorrow as a “black day”, demanding a judicial inquiry into the incident. It also demanded chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s resignation.

Terming the incident as unfortunate, leaders of the Bodoland Territorial Council — which has a large Adivasi population — appealed for “calm and harmony”.

The People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives and Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti also blamed the Congress government for the violence.

Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda today urged Dispur to ensure the safety of tribal migrants from the state. Koda said a delegation comprising Jharkhand Mukti Morcha president Sibu Soren, three other ministers and a police official, would leave for Guwahati today, adds PTI.

While former chief minister and BJP leader Arjun Munda is already in the Assam capital, another former chief minister, Babulal Marandi, will leave for Guwahati tomorrow, adds PTI.

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