Policemen try to disperse protesters on the national highway on Thursday. A Telegraph picture
Dibrugarh, Dec. 20: Rohmorias monsoon woes continued to spill onto the streets as police caned and even threw stones to scatter a mob of over a thousand protesters blocking National Highway 37 at Nadwa Siding near Chabua demanding that the government discuss the erosion issue.
Over 50 people, including women, were injured in the baton-charge.
Tension brewed since early morning when processionists, drawn from 20 villages in the area, broke through police barricades put up in front of Rohmoria police station and marched in the direction of the national highway.
On reaching the highway, they squatted on the road blocking traffic on the busy highway connecting Dibrugarh with Tinsukia.
The Flood Erosion Resistance Struggle Forum, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia district committee and Rohmoria Flood Erosion Struggle Forum had called a two-hour highway blockade to protest against the governments indifference towards erosion.
So far, 28 villages, three tea estates and several institutions, including a government-run sericulture farm, have been washed away.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Rohmoria on January 17 last year to take stock of the situation and promised central assistance to tackle the problem. Only last month, Union water resources minister Saifuddin Soz said before a gathering of villagers that the Centre was committed to taking up permanent and timely measures to protect Rohmoria from vanishing off the face of the earth.
In spite of the tall promises, nothing has been done for the protection of Rohmoria, forcing us to hit the streets to make our grievances heard, said Nobin Gogoi, president of the Flood Erosion Resistance Struggle Forum.
He said as the protesters started an impromptu meeting on the road, magistrate Bijit Das and deputy superintendent of police (headquarters), rushed to the site from Dibrugarh with a strong contingent of police and CRPF.
On reaching the highway, the police, through the public address system, asked the protesters to clear the road within two minutes or they would be evicted. Instead of paying heed to the directive, the crowd became more agitated.
Sensing trouble, the police fired teargas shells to disperse the protesters, but when it did not work, they resorted to a baton-charge. A few CRPF personnel were even seen throwing stones at the crowd, picked up from the railway track, which runs along the highway.
Of the injured, 20 were admitted to Assam Medical College Hospital in Dibrugarh.
Local MP Sarbananda Sonowal condemned the incident and demanded a proper inquiry.
Dibrugarh deputy commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri said the police were only following the law. There was no question of ordering any inquiry when the police action was lawful, he said.
The organisations spearheading the movement to protect Rohmoria threatened to intensify their agitation.
Last month, the Forum threatened to boycott the panchayat elections if its demands continued to be ignored.
It also launched a series of programmes to protest against OILs alleged failure to do its bit to check erosion.