Guwahati, Oct. 18: The Assam State Election Commission today initiated a fresh move to hold the much-delayed Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council elections in November after its first attempt was derailed because of law and order issues.
Announcing the dates for the polls (see chart) this afternoon, state election commissioner Biren Dutta said elections would be held in three phases to prevent a repeat of the violence that rocked Goalpara on February 12. As many as 21 people died during the poll and its aftermath.
Sources said as part of its effort to hold the polls, the state election commission had dropped non-Scheduled Tribe voters of 25 villages in Goalpara district and 46 villages of Kamrup district from the voter list. These people did not want to be part of the council, one of them claimed.
The Non-Rabha Coordination Committee, which has been demanding exclusion of 91 and 104 villages from Goalpara and Kamrup districts respectively from the 749 villages in the Rabha council, was up in arms over the move. The president of the forum, Shahjahan Ali, told The Telegraph that they had called a 36-hour bandh in the two districts from 5am on October 23 against the alleged “one-sided” decision of the state poll panel. Absu has called a 24-hour Goalpara district bandh tomorrow.
Of the 36 constituencies in the council, 20 are in Goalpara and the remaining 16 are in Kamrup.
“I am very hopeful about the polls being held smoothly and peacefully this time. We will ensure adequate security with one armed security picket at every polling station,” Dutta said. The armed security picket will comprise eight to 11 personnel.
Dutta said he was optimistic because the Mising Autonomous Council polls were successful.
Several Rabha groups welcomed the announcement of the poll schedule. Rabha Hasong Joint Action Committee, a platform of 34 organisations under the Rabha council, had earlier set the deadline of September 30 for the state government to come out with the much-delayed poll schedule.
Calling it the “fruit” of decade-long democratic movement, the president of the All Rabha Students’ Union, Tankeshwar Rabha, said: “We are thankful to the state election commission for announcing the poll schedule though the elections should have been held much earlier. It is better late than never. We have been demanding polls since 1996. We urge all to participate in the electoral process.” The president of the All Rabha Women Council, Hima Rabha, said: “With the 18-year wait coming to an end, we want cooperation from all so that the elections pass off peacefully.”
While candidates can file their nomination papers till October 25, they can withdraw their candidature on October 28. The date for scrutiny has been fixed for October 26. Counting will be held on November 30.