The Telegraph
Thursday , September 5 , 2013
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Talks salve for protesters

Sivasagar/Dhemaji, Sept. 4: Dispur today said that it would hold talks with non-Mising, non-Rabha and non-Sonowal groups to allay apprehensions about their future in the autonomous councils they live in.

The announcement followed the unrest witnessed during the first day of the indefinite Dhemaji district bandh called by Atasu from today seeking exclusion of non-Mising dominated villages from the Mising Autonomous Council (MAC) with bandh supporters burning down a motorcycle while those opposed to it vandalising a school.

“We will talk with all groups. Talks are the only way out. No group should feel ignored. Already polls in two of the 36 constituencies of the Mising council area have been put off over demand for exclusion of non-Mising villages. We have already got the court’s nod to hold the Rabha polls in November so that we can sort out all issues related to the polls there. The government is looking into all issues related to the protests,” Bharat Chandra Narah, press adviser to chief minister Tarun Gogoi said while appealing for peace and reason in response to flare-up in council areas over the ensuing elections.

The tension in the Mising council area also figured in today’s law and order meeting chaired by Gogoi with a participant saying that the protests would subside once the people know the truth.

Besides Dhemaji, the discontentment against inclusion over non-Mising-dominated villages has also spread to Sivasagar district with Atasu planning a rally tomorrow and a road blockade a day after tomorrow in the district.

Normal life came to a grinding halt in Dhemaji district following an indefinite bandh call. Educational institutions, shops, banks, business establishments and some government offices remained closed today.

Movements of commercial and private vehicles were disrupted as bandh supporters assembled at several places in the district and threw stones at the vehicles plying on the road.

Students of Amguri Tribal HS School, 15km from Dhemaji, which is 415km from Guwahati, broke doors, windows and even blackboards protesting against the bandh. A motorcycle was set ablaze by bandh supporters near Janajati High School, 40km from Dhemaji.

The secretary of the Dhemaji district unit of Atasu, Khagen Konwar, was arrested by police from Gogamukh today on charges of creating disturbances during the bandh.

The president of the Dhemaji district unit of Atasu, Manoj Gogoi, said: “The protests will continue till the government makes a proper boundary demarcation of the MAC and takes steps to exclude all non-Mising dominated villages from MAC.”

The union also held a rally at Lakhimpur today with nearly 1,500 protesters marching around the town and staging a dharna outside the deputy commissioner’s office.

Atasu president Pranjal Rajkonwar alleged that the move to include non-Mising dominated villages in the council was part of a ruling Congress government’s plan to secure majority seats in the council elections.

Officials said the government had initially notified 834 villages of Dhemaji district in the council. “However, the number of villages in the MAC was brought down to 772 in the district after public hearings and field verification,” a source said.

The additional deputy commissioner of Dhemaji, Arpan Kumar Saikia, said 120 villages were fully deleted and 38 partially deleted from the initially notified villages. “Fifty-eight new villages of the district were added in the council after the public hearings. The changes were made after due consultation with the public, field verification and 2011 census,” he said. In Sivasagar district, 12 villages have been deleted from the council from the 38 initially notified villages.

The state election commission declared on Monday that elections to the Mising council would be held in two phases — on October 3 and 7. The council area covers eight districts. Elections to the Sonowal Kachari council will be held on September 30.

Additional reporting by Pranab Kumar Das in Tezpur and our special correspondent in Guwahati