Guwahati/Nagaon, June 5: Elections to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous District Council were indefinitely put on hold a day after militants gunned down its chief executive member and two colleagues, including the one who was initially believed to have been only abducted.
Militants of the Jewel Gorlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah had whisked away Ajit Bodo from his Maibong residence a few hours before chief executive member Purnendu Langthasa, eldest son of Congress veteran G.C. Langthasa, and his colleague Nindu Langthasa were summoned to a remote village and shot dead. Bodo’s murder was confirmed only after his body was recovered late at night.
Security agencies briefed Governor Ajai Singh and chief minister Tarun Gogoi about the situation in the district at Haflong Circuit House today and both were convinced that elections would not be feasible on June 12, as originally scheduled.
The cabinet’s nod came in the evening.
The ruling Congress had fielded candidates for all 28 seats in the autonomous council. Purnendu and Nindu were in Dehangi, close to Umrangsu town, for an election rally when a clandestine meeting with the DHD (J) was arranged in the Dimasa settlement of Langlai Hasnu, 65 km from the district headquarters town of Haflong. The duo did not return.
Representatives of the army and the police admitted that the situation in the hilly district was not conducive to elections. “To conduct elections in the district at this juncture means arranging for a huge security detail, which is not possible as the state is already hard-pressed to meet its overall security requirements with the manpower at its disposal,” a home department official said after an emergency review meeting.
Director-general of police R.N. Mathur, Brig. P.R. Shankar of the army’s 57 Mountain Artillery Division and senior Assam Rifles and CRPF officials attended the meeting.
Gogoi asked deputy inspector-general (southern range) Y.K. Gautam to furnish details of the security requirement of North Cachar Hills. He said security agencies deployed there must work in tandem if a semblance of normality is to be restored.
The district has eight companies of central forces and has asked for six more.
“The requirement will increase manifold if elections are held anytime during the monsoon. Landslides cut off parts of the district whenever there is heavy rain. This makes the window period between security forces receiving information and acting on it even longer,” a senior police official said.
The governor and the chief minister visited the residences of Purnendu and Nindu to lay wreaths on their bodies. Later in the day, hundreds of people poured onto the streets of Haflong town and joined the processions from the residences of the slain leaders to a crematorium near Haflong Government College.