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Cycle of mistrust & violence

Nov. 28: One more life was lost and three of a family were injured in the seemingly ceaseless cycle of violence unleashed on Assam since Saturday.

A team of policemen and security personnel engaged by Oil India Ltd found a grievously wounded man buried till his neck at Tengakhat in Dibrugarh district this morning. They took him to the OIL Hospital in Duliajan town, from where he was almost immediately shifted to the Assam Medical College Hospital in Dibrugarh. He died in the evening.

Police said Shyamanta Gohain, a resident of Bharalua, may have been attacked last night by the same group of Adivasis that had targeted some OIL employees near the place where he was found. Three of the OIL employees were injured in that incident.

Adivasis also attacked three members of a family in their house at Tengakhat before setting the dwelling ablaze. Bina Gogoi said in her FIR at Tengakhat police station that assailants took away Rs 35,000 in cash, a motorcycle, two bicycles, two mobile phones and some other valuables after beating her up along with her husband Bulon and five-year-old son Jyotisman.

Bina said she and her son could have been killed had her husband not diverted the assailants’ attention by hitting back. “My husband saved me and my son. We fled while he fought them alone. I did not want to leave him behind, but I had to for the sake of our son. Fortunately, he survived, too.”

Dibrugarh additional superintendent of police (headquarters) Ashim Swargiary said seven other families of the village had fled their homes after the incident and reached Chabua town, about 10km from there.

Arsonists suspected to be Adivasis set ablaze a private bus at Helobeel, under Salakati police station in Kokrajhar district, around 8.15pm today. The bus had been hired to carry a marriage party from Siliguri in Bengal to Basugaon on this side of the inter-state border.

The police said the group waylaid the bus, forced the passengers to get down and torched the vehicle. Four passengers were injured.

There was trouble in Sonitpur, too. Curfew was clamped in parts of the district, where residents attacked Adivasi protesters yesterday and today for ransacking a hardware store and forcing shops to close down. The incidents were, however, relatively milder than Saturday’s vandalism by Adivasi campaigners for Scheduled Tribe status in Guwahati and the brutal mob retaliation.

The district magistrate of Sonitpur declared curfew in Rangapara and the adjoining areas of Tezpur town immediately after clashes between Adivasi protesters and residents this morning. Some residents damaged an ambulance and a schoolbus belonging to a tea garden in the area.

Unconfirmed reports said an Adivasi activist was injured in police firing to disperse a mob that had gathered in Rangapara, a semi-urban settlement surrounded by tea gardens.

Adivasis laid siege to Rangapara police station to protest the attacks on them by residents. Wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet, deputy commissioner Kamal Goswami persuaded the mob to disperse in the evening.

Goswami told the protesters that those who damaged a heap of bicycles belonging to them yesterday would be identified and punished. The deputy commissioner also promised to repair the ambulance and the schoolbus that were damaged today.

An official at Rangapara police station said the confrontation between Adivasis and residents of the area was mainly over enforcement of a 12-hour bandh called by the Santhali Students’ Union in protest against the incidents in Guwahati. “Just as the Adivasis were forcing shopkeepers to down shutters, people came out in large numbers and chased them away.” The army has been out in Tezpur since yesterday.

In Jorhat, the police escorted vehicles along National Highway 37, flanked by tea gardens. “We are not taking any chances,” additional superintendent of police Mukul Saikia said.

 

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