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Since 1st March, 1999
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Goalpara town under curfew
- Non-Rabhas damage truck on highway
Ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma and Chandan Brahma with MP Anwar Hussain speak to policemen in Krishnai on Monday. Picture by Ashraful Alam

Goalpara, May 26: Curfew was extended today to Goalpara town as tension spread to new areas after largescale violence in nearby Krishnai town yesterday forced police to open fire on a mob, leading to the death of one person on the last day of the 72-hour bandh.

The strike was called by Rabha organisations to protest the delay in granting Sixth Schedule status to the Rabha-Hasong Autonomous Council.

Given the gravity of the situation, the administration deployed additional troops in Goalpara and Krishnai towns fearing clashes after a truck was damaged this morning on National Highway 31 by suspected non-Rabha protesters.

Dispur also sent ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma and Chandan Brahma to the violence-hit area and announced a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to the family of the person killed in the police firing.

Rabha-Hasong organisations, including the potent All Rabha Students’ Union (ARSU), have been demanding Sixth Schedule status as well as council elections in 799 villages. But the Confederation of Non-Rabha Organisations is vehemently opposed to it. Instead, the confederation wants panchayat elections in non-Rabha dominated areas of Goalpara and Kamrup districts.

“We are committed to holding both council elections in Rabha-Hasong areas and panchayat elections in other areas of Goalpara and Kamrup districts. Preparations are almost complete. We are likely to hold it within two months,” Sarma said, adding that delimitation of panchayats and council areas had been completed.

While reviewing law and order separately with officials of Goalpara district, including DIG (western range), K.P. Singh Deo, deputy commissioner Utpalananda Sarma and superintendent of police Akhilesh Singh, Sarma instructed them to act promptly to avert any more flare-ups.

ARSU president Tonkeswar Rabha, while demanding a judicial probe, blamed the government for the unrest. “These incidents of violence were a conspiracy of the government to divert the attention of people from the genuine demands of the Rabha people. Violence and killings seem to have been engineered at the behest of the government which wants to keep the pot boiling for its own political interests,” Rabha said, reiterating their demand for Sixth Schedule status and council polls.

However, the president of Non-Rabha Co-ordination Forum, Shajahan Ali, said they were opposed to the council election in the demarcated Rabha-Hasong areas in which 799 panchayats were included without any demarcation.

“Since there are only 401 panchayats dominated by Rabhas and 398 dominated by non-Rabhas, we wanted the panchayat elections in December,” Ali said.

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