| Shops down shutters in Bongaigaon on Saturday during the strike. Picture by UB Photos |
Dhubri/Kokrajhar, Feb. 16: A 12-hour Assam bandh called by tribal organisations from 5am today paralysed normal life in the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council area and the Bodoland Territorial Areas District.
The bandh was called in protest against the violence and death of 20 people in Goalpara and Kamrup districts under Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council during the last phase of panchayat poll on February 12.
Amid the bandh, counting of panchayat poll votes for areas in Goalpara district that fall outside the councilís hegemony was completed today. Of the 16 zilla parishads in the district, results for six were declared today. In the other 10, which fall in the council area and where elections could not be held because of opposition by the Rabha Hasong Joint Movement Forum, re-poll dates are yet to be declared, a source in Goalpara said.
The curfew that was clamped in South Salmara-Mancachar subdivision of Dhubri district yesterday, after three persons were killed in police firing and clashes during counting of votes, was today withdrawn from all the areas, barring those under Kharuabandha police outpost.
Subdivisional officer (civil) Prabin Kumar Saikia, who had fled Hatsinghimari, the subdivisional headquarters, after trouble started yesterday, is yet to be traced.
Subdivisional election officer Bitupon Neog, who took over as SDO (C) in-charge, said curfew was withdrawn from a majority of the areas as the situation had improved. Residents of Hatsinghimari have also demanded withdrawal of curfew. Neog said a final decision on this would be taken only after a meeting of all administrative and police officials. He said the Hatsinghimari weekly market is scheduled for tomorrow and if the situation improves, they would consider withdrawing the curfew.
Neog said counting of votes for the four zilla parishads of South Salmara-Mancachar subdivision, which was stopped yesterday, would be taken up only if the situation improves, curfew is withdrawn and instructions are given by the state election commissioner.
The bandh was total in all the four BTAD districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri and neighbouring Bongaigaon. All business establishments remained closed, attendance was thin in most government offices and hundreds of vehicles carrying essential commodities were stranded on NH 31C that passes through the Bodo belt. Educational institutions, pharmacies and other essential services were open.
The general secretary of Sadou Asom Tribal Sangha, Aditya Khaklary, claimed that the bandh was a success as its impact was felt across the state, barring Guwahati, and it was peaceful. He said they would hold a meeting in Guwahati on February 21 to protest against the violence in the Rabha council area and the governmentís anti-tribal policies. He said the situation could have been avoided if the government and the state election commission had not forced the panchayat polls on the indigenous people. He criticised the government for failing to anticipate the situation.