The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buck stops at civil & police heads
- Govt transfers Kamrup metro DC and senior SP for failure to stop riot

Guwahati, Nov. 27: The quest for accountability that had begun with the transfer of a lower-ranked police officer and another’s transfer today led the Assam government to the topmost rungs of the Kamrup (metro) civil and police administration.

Three days after the mayhem on the streets of the capital city, the Tarun Gogoi ministry decided to transfer deputy commissioner Avinash Joshi and senior superintendent of police Surendra Kumar for failing to prevent the vandalism by Adivasi activists seeking Scheduled Tribe status and the mob retaliation that followed.

One person died and over 300 were injured in the violence.

The council of ministers discussed the chain of events since Saturday for nearly two-and-a-half hours before deciding to transfer Joshi and Kumar. A source in the government said more heads were likely to roll.

On whether Joshi and Kumar were held directly responsible for what happened, he said the buck had to stop with them. “Whether there actually were lapses on their part or there was any conspiracy will be brought out by the judicial commission that was constituted yesterday. Heads have to roll to send the message that lapses will not be tolerated. Barring last-minute changes, Joshi will exchange places with Prateek Hajela, the mission director of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and Kumar will be posted to either the anti-corruption and vigilance cell or the state railway police.”

Dibrugarh police chief V. Ramishetty will replace Kumar.

Apart from fixing responsibility, the government worked overtime to placate the sentiments of the Adivasi community amid reports of violence during protests against the incidents over the weekend. As many as four ministers — Prithibi Majhi, Dinesh Prasad Gowala, Ripun Bora and Himanta Biswa Sarma — addressed the media to convey the government’s views on the mayhem, stand on the subject of ST status to communities demanding it and the steps initiated against the vandals.

Sarma gave a lengthy exposition of the government’s distress at what happened in Guwahati and the aftermath.

“We are sure every that Assamese is ashamed of what happened. It is not our culture and we will not accept this. We are neither anti-Adivasi or anti-women. Assamese society is one. There are no two societies in Assam. We are united and Adivasis are part of the greater Assamese society. There is no societal conflict, as in Rajasthan between the Meenas and Gurjars. There is no disagreement over the need for uplift of our Adivasi brothers economically, politically and socially. We have arrested five Adivasis and three local residents so far for Saturday’s incidents. The toll remains one and of the injured, only the condition of one is serious. Even he is out of danger.”

The health minister said a woman doctor had been given the responsibility of ascertaining whether an Adivasi woman who is undergoing treatment at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital was raped, as has been reported. “We want to get to the truth.”

Sources said the chief minister was contemplating a “rehabilitation” package for the woman who was publicly stripped during the mob violence. The three youths who disrobed her — Prasenjit Chakravarty, Ratul Barman and Sandip Chakdar — were remanded in police custody for seven days.

The Adivasis who were arrested on charges of leading the arson that led to mob retaliation are the general secretary of the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam, Joseph Meinz, treasurer Prem Hasda and three district-level leaders from Karbi Anglong and Udalguri. Cases have been registered against them at Basistha and Dispur police stations.

Governor Ajai Singh asked the government to provide relief to the aggrieved and ensure that the guilty were punished.

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