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Rabhas begin rail blockade

Security personnel drive away protesters affiliated to the Rabha Hasong Joint Movement Forum, at Rangjuli in Goalpara on Sunday. Picture by UB Photos

Dhubri, Jan. 28: Police fired rubber bullets to disperse Rabha Hasong Joint Movement Forum activists, who launched a 27-hour rail blockade since morning, at Kharuabhasa near Goalpara railway station this afternoon.

They also arrested many activists who detained goods trains at places like Chhaygaon, Bamunigaon and Bekali (Boko) in Kamrup district.

The forum, a conglomeration of Rabha groups, is opposing panchayat elections, scheduled for February 12, in the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council area, which comprises parts of Goalpara and Kamrup districts.

All Rabha Students’ Union vice-president Jiban Rabha said the forum would intensify its movement and foil the government’s move to hold panchayat elections. “After the 72-hour rail blockade, which will continue till January 31, we will organise a civil disobedience movement from February 4 to February 12,” he said.

Yesterday, 14 supporters were injured in police lathicharge while trying to prevent training of poll officials at Rongjuli Girls High School in Goalpara district. The police also fired rubber bullets and burst teargas shells to disperse such protesters in Dudhnoi. A man, suspected to have triggered blasts by firecrakers in Goalpara, was also lynched on January 26 night.

Police sources in Goalpara said Dispur was making security arrangements in the area in view of the forum’s agitation over the past several days, including a 72-hour bandh that has thrown life out of gear. “The inconvenience to the people is to be seen to be believed,” he said, adding that if the situation does not change soon there could be a widespread public outburst, which could lead to violence.

“We are looking at all aspects and are in touch with Dispur regarding security requirements,” a senior police official in Goalpara district said.

Residents of Garo hills in Meghalaya, who have to traverse stretches that fall under the council area to go to Guwahati or even Shillong, are badly hit whenever there are disturbances.Despite the violence, the election machinery in Goalpara and Kamrup districts is busy preparing for the polls. Election officials said nominations for 95 per cent seats in the Rabha Hasong council area were filed and the district administrations were set to conduct the polls with security cover for poll officials.