Dibrugarh/Guwahati, July 23: Public anger at army operations in Tinsukia district of Assam has snowballed into a crisis similar to that which had gripped Kakopathar earlier this year.
Around 2,000 people blocked two national highways at Makum for the second time in three days, demanding cessation of army operations in the area.
The trigger for the protest was the death of a youth, Prabhat Gogoi, during an operation by armed forces in his village on Wednesday. He fell into a river and drowned while reportedly fleeing from the army team.
A crowd of villagers had blocked National Highways 37 and 38 at Makum Tinali on Friday.
Today, protesters from the nearby villages resumed the blockade at 10 am and blocked vehicles at two places for six hours. The protesters threatened to intensify the agitation if army operations continued.
The protesters have decided to stage a sit-in demonstration at the deputy commissioner’s office from 10 am on Monday and threatened a 48-hour Tinsukia district bandh from Tuesday if army operations are not halted.
Today’s protests were led by the local units of the All Assam Students Union (AASU), the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) and the All Assam Moran Students Union.
Tinsukia deputy commissioner A.K. Absar Hazarika and superintendent of police Debojit Hazarika visited different areas of Pengeri, which has reportedly borne the brunt of alleged army atrocities.
“This (the army offensive) is tantamount to disrespecting the peace process, which has progressed well till now. But now we have doubts whether the army, some persons at the Centre and some in the state government will allow the process to continue. That is why they have let the army loose,” Birinchi Neog, president of the All Assam Moran Students Union, said over the phone.
The death of a Kakopathar youth, Ajit Mahanta, in army custody had triggered unrest across the state and impacted the peace talks between the Ulfa-constituted People’s Consultative Group and the Centre.
The PCG has decided to write to national security adviser M.K. Narayanan, asking him to implement the decisions arrived at the third round of talks between the group and the Centre on June 22.
In a statement, the PCG said instead of fulfilling the commitment made during the discussions, Delhi was now coming up with new conditions, creating hurdles in the way of “direct” talks with the Ulfa leadership.