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Three die in police firing

- Violence mars second day of panchayat poll vote count

Feb. 15: Three persons were killed and four seriously injured in clashes and police firing at Hatsinghimari in Dhubri district around 10.30am today, the second day of counting of votes for panchayat polls in Assam.

Counting was stopped and indefinite curfew clamped at Hatsinghimari town, where the counting for panchayat polls under South Salmara-Mancachar subdivision was taking place. The administration also issued shoot-at-sight orders.

Sources in Dhubri district administration said a large number of people had started gathering in front of Hatsinghimari counting centre since early this morning, alleging that the process for counting and declaration of results had been delayed inordinately.“When the security forces tried to stop the crowd, they started pelting stones and injured some policemen. The police and BSF personnel then resorted to caning to control the crowd. The protesters again pelted stones, forcing the security personnel to resort to firing,” the source said.

After the firing, the crowd went berserk and set the counting hall and some other offices on fire, forcing the men in uniform to fire again. The firing continued for 20 minutes, resulting in the death of three civilians. Ballots papers and other election materials at the counting centre were gutted, too.

“Indefinite curfew has been imposed in Hatsinghimari and counting of votes has been stopped there,” the source said.

A section of protesters alleged that the BSF jawans on duty in front of the counting centre abused the crowd as illegal migrants, which led to the attack on security personnel.

In another incident, AGP workers allegedly assaulted and injured former cabinet minister and senior Congress leader Ripun Bora at Gohpur near Chaiduar College counting centre in Sonitpur district.

The trend that has emerged on the second day of counting shows that the ruling Congress will dominate the panchayats for the third consecutive term. The AIUDF is all set to emerge as the second largest party in the polls, a source in the state election commission said.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said the Congress had improved upon its previous panchayat result. “Coming to power for the third time at a stretch is itself an achievement, going by the fast rising aspirations and expectations of voters. The margin of votes might have gone down at some places which can be attributed to the people’s growing expectations,” he told a few reporters at LGBI airport at Borjhar when he went to receive Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today. Singh landed at the LGBI airport on his way to Shillong to address a poll rally.

The Congress has dominated Upper Assam districts by winning all the 24 zilla parishad seats in Sivasagar district and 22 of the 23 seats in neighbouring Jorhat district. In Dibrugarh, it has won 13 of the 15 zilla parishad seats while the BJP has won two. The Congress has won 357 gaon panchayat president seats in the district. In Tinsuika, the party has won 18 of the 20 zilla parishad seats. In the two central Assam districts of Nagaon and Morigaon, the Congress is leading, having already bagged 23 and six zilla parishad seats respectively.

Judging by the trend in the Barak valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, sources said it could be said that the Congress was poised for a sweeping triumph.

State election commissioner Biren Dutta told The Telegraph that the commission would be able to announce the official result by Sunday or Monday after analysing data received from all the districts.


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