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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Council poll in April, Rabhas’ protest on

Guwahati, Jan. 18: Elections to the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council will be held on April 30, the Assam state election commission announced today, but it was not enough for the restive Rabha groups, who want next month’s panchayat election in the area deferred, to call off their agitation.

State election commissioner Biren Dutta said announcement of the poll schedule would allay misgivings as a delay in doing so had triggered protests in the council area, comprising Goalpara and Kamrup districts. The council has been run by an ad hoc body ever since it was constituted in 1995.

The Rabha groups, however, remained firm on their demand. Tonkeshwar Rabha, president of All Rabha Students Union, said senior legislator Bhumidhar Barman had assured them of an amicable settlement by January 21. “We will continue our 48-hour council area bandh, which began at 6am today, till then,” he told this correspondent.

A team of Rabha Hasong joint movement committee met Barman for two hours this afternoon to press for holding of council polls before panchayat polls and to resolve the conflict between the two local self-government bodies. “Both have similar powers, hence the conflict,” Rabha said.

According to the poll schedule, the commission will notify the poll on April 2, the last day of filing nominations will be April 9 and scrutiny of nominations will take place on April 10. The last date for withdrawal and that of publication of list of contesting candidates will be April 12. Counting and declaration of results will take place on May 2.

The commission today also notified delimitation of constituencies, the final list of which will be published on March 8. The draft roll will be published by March 13 and the final electoral roll by April 1.

“Both delimitation and preparation of voter list take time because we will also have to receive claims and objections from the public before publishing the final list. Today, we also appointed the deputy commissioners of Kamrup and Goalpara districts as district election officers and reviewed the security scenario,” Dutta said.

Election will be held in 36 of the 40 seats of the council. “Four of the council members will be nominated by the government with concurrence of the council from among groups of communities residing in the area but not represented in the council. Of the 40 seats, 26 will be reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates and six shall be reserved for women candidates from any community,” Dutta said.

When the council was conceived, the total number of seats was 30, of which four council members were to be nominated by the government and 15 were reserved for STs. Of these 15, three were reserved for women candidates.

The commission said adequate security would be deployed for free and fair elections. Each polling station will have three village defence personnel, one homeguard and one constable.

However, non-tribals and the Garos residing in Kamrup district have vehemently opposed the election in 375 villages of the district, where non-Rabhas are in a majority.