Guwahati, May 10: The Assam Congress today appealed for “immediate relook” at the “democratic processes” in the volatile Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) for lasting peace.
Without directly calling for the introduction of panchayat polls in the BTAD, which falls under the Sixth Schedule, PCC media department chairperson Haren Das said, “Everybody has to peacefully co-exist irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Everybody has to feel like stakeholders, something that is absent today. It has, therefore, become necessary to revisit the democratic processes so that nobody feels left out.” He was responding to a question on whether panchayat polls were the answer to the problems plaguing the BTAD.
At least 43 people have died and over 10 have been reported missing in the carnage in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts on May 1 and 2. No fresh incident has been reported since May 3. The call to introduce panchayat polls, which are not held in Sixth Schedule areas, comes in the wake of the demand to dismiss the BPF-run Bodoland Territorial Council, which allegedly does not work for all sections living in the BTAD that it governs.
Governor J.B. Patnaik and chief minister Tarun Gogoi feel that panchayat polls would expedite the development process. “More money will flow into the area. Locals will feel empowered. I have been rooting for panchayat polls for sometime now,” Gogoi had said recently.
The PCC also welcomed Dispur and Delhi’s steps to contain the violence by handing over the probe into the killings to the National Investigation Agency and instituting a judicial commission. “We appeal to all sections of people to maintain peace,” Das said while making public a PCC resolution adopted on May 3 on the BTAD situation.
Das, however, side-stepped questions about snapping ties with ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) or the demand for Gogoi’s resignation as home minister.
“This is not the time to discuss alliance but to restore order. We need to work closely,” Das said on the Congress’s ties with BPF.
On the demand for Gogoi’s resignation, he said, “That is not a matter for the PCC to comment”. Das, however, said intra-party grievances should be kept within the party at this point of time.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking additional security personnel to tide over any law and order issues following declaration of results on May 16, especially in the BTAD.
Fearing more attacks from miscreants, those living in the vulnerable areas of Kokrajhar and Baksa districts as well as neighbouring Dhubri district have started moving to safer places.
Villagers from Hekaipara, Salakati, Jaoliapara, Duramari and Tulshipbil in Kokrajhar and Takimari, Barsi and Diabari in Dhubri have been leaving their homes since yesterday. The Dhubri refugees are taking shelter at Swrang community hall and Nursing training centre in Kokrajhar town and Joypur on the outskirts.
Reports of violence revisiting the state, especially the BTAD, has left Dispur jittery too, more so after several Congress legislators went public with their concern over the post-poll trouble in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts on May 1 and 2. They are also apprehensive about post-result violence.
CMO sources today said the request for more forces is based on intelligence feedback about possible post-result trouble and is in addition to the earlier requisition to the home ministry for 50 additional companies of security personnel. “We expect some positive developments by Monday,” a senior official said.
The development suggests Gogoi, who has been accused by sections within his party and outside of not doing enough to check recurrence of violence in the state, was not taking any chances. In fact, the home ministry has praised Dispur for having contained the BTAD carnage in two days.
Former Rajya Sabha MP Urkhao Gwra Brahma blamed health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for creating fear psychosis among the people in the BTAD and questioned the basis of his statement that the situation in the BTAD might deteriorate after May 16, when election results are scheduled to be declared.
“How does he (Sarma) know that there will be trouble and violence in the BTAD after May 16? There should be clarification on what basis and source the statement was made,” Brahma said.
“There are reports of people leaving their villages. They should be stopped from fleeing or the situation may become more tense,” he said while appealing to the people not to leave the homes and not to go by Sarma’s statement. He urged the director-general of police to look into the matter and provide adequate security to the people.
Several Congress legislators, reportedly of the anti-Gogoi camp, met at the house of senior legislator and parliamentary secretary Chandan Sarkar and discussed the situation likely to arise in the BTAD and its adjoining areas after the declaration of results.
“There is apprehension in the area, among all sections, as to what will happen post-result. We will meet the chief minister in this regard. Our priority now is maintaining order. We are not thinking about anything else at the moment,” Sarkar told The Telegraph on being asked when they would call the CLP meeting to discuss the leadership issue.
A four-member team of the National Commission for Minorities, led by its chairperson Naseem Ahmad, today visited Narayanguri in Baksa district, interacted with those affected by violence and took stock of the security, relief and rehabilitation provided to them. Sources said they were more or less satisfied with the steps taken by the government. The team will return tomorrow evening and meet the chief minister and chief secretary Jitesh Khosla on Monday before returning to Delhi.