| Protesters block National Highway 51 in Goalpara on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos |
Goalpara, Oct. 19: A day after the state election commission announced three-phase polls to the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council in November, the Non-Rabha Co-ordination Forum said today they would oppose the elections unless there is proper demarcation of the council area.
Advocate Sahjahan Ali, forum president, said today that if the state government does not listen to their demand, they would be compelled to take steps for which the government would be solely responsible.
The main demand of the forum is to exclude the non-Rabha villages from the proposed council area by amending the Rabha Hasong Council Act.
“We are unhappy with the decision of the commission to hold the election. We had demanded deleting of 91 non-Rabha villages from the proposed Rabha Hasong area. But the election was declared without any response to our demand and this may lead to more violence. The demarcation of the council area is a long-term problem but the Assam government has been delaying it and many innocent people have lost their lives in the process. Our movement for the protection of non-Rabha communities has been ongoing since July 4, 2004 but the government has not paid any attention,” he said.
The forum declared a series of protest programmes against the holding of the election. It will prohibit any political leader from entering the council area from October 20 to 25. It also called for a four-day strike in the Goalpara and Kamrup (rural) districts from October 23. It will undertake a civil disobedience movement from October 27 to November 11 and impose a public curfew from November 12 to 25.
The commission had yesterday announced elections to the council after its first attempt was derailed because of law and order issues. Polls will be held in three phases on November 13, 16 and 25. Nearly 600 polling stations will be set up where 3.37 lakh voters will cast their votes.
The Garo National Council is also up in arms over holding of the council election. Several hundred Garo men and women today took out a procession from Kachumari under Krishnai police station in Goalpara district in an attempt to block National Highway 51.
The highway connects Krishnai in Assam to Tura in Meghalaya.
The Garo council supporters, bamboo sticks and machetes in hand, shouted slogans against the poll panel and said no Garos would stay inside the proposed Rabha Hasong council area. The Garo council also declared an indefinite strike in the Rabha areas.
On the other hand, organisations like the All Rabha Students’ Union, Sixth Schedule Demand Committee, Rabha Jatiyo Parishad, Rabha Mahila Parishad welcomed the announcement of the Rabha Hasong council election after 18 years of struggle.