Two jawans and a poll official carrying an EVM walk along the banks of the Brahmaputra to reach a polling booth at Bijoynagar in Kamrup district on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, April 23: Two milkmen were gunned down by militants in Kokrajhar district today, prompting the Assam chief electoral officer to say within hours of the incident that the final phase of general elections in Assam tomorrow would be the “most challenging” from the security angle, especially in the BTAD.
Milkmen Sahadut Ali and Mizanur Rehman were shot dead by suspected cadres of the Songbijit faction of NDFB at Bhorjhora under Kazigaon police station in Parbhatjhora subdivision around 11am, heightening tension in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD). The two, who had come to collect milk in the area, died on the spot.
Assam chief electoral officer Vijayendra, the man responsible for free, fair and smooth conduct of polls in the state, told The Telegraph today that the final phase will be the “most challenging” compared to the other two phases held on April 7 and 12.
Six constituencies are going to the polls tomorrow — Nowgong, Mangaldoi, Gauhati, Kokrajhar, Barpeta and Dhubri. All of these are considered to be extremely volatile given their history of ethnic and communal unrest.
“We have taken all kinds of preventive measures. Sufficient number of security personnel have been deployed and we are hopeful everything will pass off peacefully,” Vijayendra said.
Apart from the threat posed by the GNLA, Rabha Viper Army and NDFB (S), among others, the political atmosphere is also highly charged in these areas.
“A lot of polarisation has taken place besides inter-party clashes,” a senior official said. The GNLA and Rabha Viper Army are active in Dhubri while the NDFB (S) is active in Kokrajhar and Mangaldoi constituencies.
Eleven pre-poll incidents of violence between party workers and supporters in Kokrajhar, Chirang and Baksa districts of the BTAD preceded today’s killings. The police have so far arrested 154 people in connection with pre-poll violence.
Assam home commissioner G.D. Tripathi, echoing Vijayendra, said 68 additional companies of security personnel have been deployed in these areas.
“The BTAD is the most sensitive, followed by Barpeta and Dhubri. Gauhati is also vulnerable but we are prepared for all eventualities. We have seized a lot of arms and have made a lot of preventive arrests. The army has also been put on alert,” he said.
“We have received 21 companies of additional central paramilitary forces, apart from the existing 54 companies of CRPF and armed police battalions. Besides, an additional 1,676 police personnel, comprising sub-inspectors, assistant sub-inspectors and homeguards, will be deployed, apart from the existing police personnel in the four BTAD districts. There will be 10 to 12 reserve police forces and vehicles in each police station,” inspector-general of police (BTAD) L.R. Bishnoi told The Telegraph.
Of the 2,055 polling stations in the four districts of BTAD, 539 have been identified as very sensitive and 1,002 as sensitive.
Around 4,000 Sashastra Seema Bal personnel will man the five to seven kilometres of the India-Bhu-tan border to make sure that no militants or miscreants can sneak in.