Guwahati, May 22: The Paresh Barua-led faction of Ulfa today called a 12-hour Assam bandh on Saturday to protest the scheduled visit of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to the capital city, while Dispur and the ruling Congress strove to ensure that everything passes off smoothly.
The AICC president will attend the first anniversary of the Tarun Gogoi government’s third straight term at Dispur to be held at the Sarusajai stadium. Her presence will be seen among the party’s rank and file as a vote of confidence in the top brass.
In a statement emailed to The Telegraph, the assistant information and publicity secretary of Ulfa Arunodoi Dohotia said the shutdown would begin at 6am on May 26. However, all essential services would be exempted from the purview of the bandh.
“The bandh is being called to protest against Indian colonial occupation in Assam and the government’s planned bid to convert Assam into a thriving ground of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, setting up of mega hydro-power projects in collusion with big industry houses to exploit the water resources of the state and the recent move to set up National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC),” the Ulfa statement said.
This is the second bandh called since April by Ulfa to protest a high-profile VVIP visit, the first being Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s to the state on April 20 to attend the platinum jubilee celebrations of Assam Assembly. That bandh had passed off peacefully but the heavy security bandobast, including the cancellation of several trains, reflected the seriousness with which Dispur took the bandh call.
A chopper was used to fly Singh down to Nehru Stadium from the airport.
Notwithstanding the bandh call, the ruling Congress and the government went into an overdrive to prepare for the visit.
Nearly 1,000 buses will be hired from neighbouring districts to ferry Congress workers and leaders to the rally to be held at Sarusajai stadium, which has a capacity of nearly 27,000. The districts are Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Nalbari, Goalpara, Barpeta, Bongaigaon and Dhubri, Darrang, Nagaon, Morigaon and Sonitpur.
Congress insiders said where overnight travel is required, there will be a token presence.
“Excluding the nearby districts, we have asked our MLAs to ensure at least one bus from each development block,” one of them said.
A high-level meeting was held at Rajiv Bhawan involving Assam PCC office-bearers, in-charge of the districts and ministers in charge of districts.
Panchayat and rural development minister Rakibul Hussain is co-ordinating the arrangements on behalf of the government and Assam PCC general secretary Haren Das on behalf of the party. “We met today to prepare for the ensuing visit and have distributed the responsibility of who will be doing what among ourselves,” Das said.
Besides Hussain, the other ministers who attended the meeting include Ardhendu Dey, Gautam Roy, Basanta Das and Rajiv Lochan Pegu.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who met party office-bearers and ministers on Saturday evening in connection with the proposed visit, interacted with senior government officials such as PWD, general administration department and home this evening to discuss about preparations.
“Sonia madam’s visit will be a big boost to the party rank and file as it will be her first visit to attend the anniversary,” a party leader said.