|A jawan keeps vigil during the bandh in Goalpara on Wednesday. Telegraph picture
Goalpara, Oct. 23: Supporters of the 96-hour strike threw stones at two vehicles and attempted to set another on fire in three separate locations in Goalpara district today.
The Non-Rabha Co-ordination Forum and the All Assam Non Tribal Students' Union have called the strike in Goalpara and Kamrup (rural) districts in protest against the announcement of elections to the Rabha-Hasong council without excluding the non-Rabha villages from the area.
Early this morning, strike supporters attacked two newspaper vehicles at Krishnai, 35km from here, and at Bhalukdubi, 5km from Goalpara, partly damaging them.
In the afternoon, a section also tried to set afire another van, hired by some strike supporters, after causing damage to the vehicle near Goalpara police station. However, police rushed to the spot and stopped them. Miscreants also damaged a bike at Tilapara, under Lakhipur police station, 70km from Goalpara town.
In another incident, goons attacked some daily labourers of a rubber garden at Bhalukdubi while they were at work. “A group of unidentified men came and attacked us and broke our bicycles when we were working in the garden. We are daily-wage labourers and if we do not work even for one day it becomes hard for us to make ends meet. Therefore, we are compelled to work. What have we done wrong?” asked one of the injured labourers. They were admitted to Goalpara civil hospital
The strike affected normal life in both districts with offices, educational institutions, business centres remaining closed and vehicles staying off the road. The incidents have prompted the Goalpara district administration to take strict measures to prevent a repeat in the next three days. The police administration has engaged additional forces to bring the situation under control. “We are trying to bring the situation to normal. The strike is a democratic movement but if the supporters take undemocratic steps we will take strict measures to control them. I appeal to the members as well as the supporters of the non-Rabha organisations to maintain peace so that people are not affected,” said Nitul Gogoi, superintendent of police, Goalpara.
The non-Rabha organisations, for their part, are firm on their demands. “We have no objections against the council elections but we can never support the polls if the non-tribal villages are not removed from the Rabha Hasong area. If the villages are not deleted then the non-tribals will live as second-class citizens in the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council, which we can never tolerate. Moreover, in some villages of the council, non-tribal citizens have been denied the right to vote. Therefore, we will go to any length to stop the council election,” said Altaf Hussain, secretary of the All Assam Non-Tribal Students’ Union.
The ruling Congress has started the process of selecting candidates for the council elections. A meeting was held at the residence of state PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita this evening where PCC office bearers of the two districts (Goalpara and Kamrup rural) were invited.
The Rabha Hasong Joint Movement Forum which had spearheaded the movement for council polls, will field their candidates in all the 36 council seats, a source said.