The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 7 , 2017

8 hurt in Silapathar clash

Dhemaji, March 6: A daylong rally by the Nikhil Bharat Bangali Udbastu Samannay Samitee, demanding that the names of Hindu Bengalis be unconditionally removed from the list of D-voters (doubtful voters), at Silapathar in Dhemaji district en-ded today with activists of the Samitee clashing with some supporters of the All Assam Students' Union (AASU).

Eight persons were injured in the violence and the AASU office at Silapathar was damaged this evening.

Silapathar, which is 445km from Guwahati, falls under Jonai Assembly constituency where between 25 and 30 per cent of the total population is Bengali-speaking.

A procession marking the end of the rally was passing by the AASU office at Silapathar town when unidentified men, taking advantage of the darkness, threw stones at the procession. The participants of the rally retaliated by attacking a few activists who were sitting outside the office, assuming that they had thrown the stones, and demolished the AASU office. The attackers damaged eight motorcycles parked in front of the office.

Dhemaji superintendent of police Nilesh Sawakare said the situation had been brought under control and action would be taken against whoever was responsible. Police and paramilitary forces were deployed in the town.

Sources said AASU activists, who were outnumbered during the clash, were joined by more members later on and forced the business establishments to down shutters. At least two motorcycles were allegedly set on fire by AASU activists in retaliatory attacks, the sources added.

AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi told The Telegraph that no member of the student body had been injured in the incident. "Our members were sitting in the office. When the participants of the procession threw stones, our members left."

The students' union demanded that the government arrest the persons who pelted stones at their office and said the government's decision to give citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis is a factor behind such incidents.

AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya strongly condemned the Silapathar incident and demanded punishment for the guilty.

On the Hindu Bangladeshi issue, Bhattacharyya said under no circumstance can Assam take the burden of any further illegal migrants irrespective of their religion.

Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal directed the police to take strong action against the troublemakers and prevent any further untoward incident.

Dhemaji deputy commissioner said R.A. Korati said the situation is tense but under control.

Assam director-general of police Mukesh Sahay told The Telegraph that senior police officers have reached the spot and reinforcements have also seen rushed. "All culprits will be taken to task," Sahay said.

The All Assam Tribal Sangha and Assam state unit of the SFI strongly condemned the attack on the AASU office and demanded immediate action against the culprits.

Earlier in the day, the Samitee leaders told the gathering that it was time for the community to fight for its identity because the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was being updated.

"We are citizens of India and harassment of Hindu Bengalis in the name of D-voters should be stopped immediately," said the Samitee's national president, Subodh Bis-was, while addressing about 20,000 Hindu Bengalis at the rally, organised by the Dhemaji district unit of the Samiti.

"Our fight for our rights will continue. We will leave no stone unturned for our rights. Every political party says it will fight to remove the (D-voter) tag before the elections, but after coming to power they turn their back on us," he said.

Those present at today's rally resolved to fight for proper compensation for all those people who were harassed after wrongfully being tagged as D-voters.

The Samitee leaders said no genuine Indian citizen should be deprived of getting their name included in the NRC because of minor errors in the spellings of their names. However, they also opposed the inclusion of the names of any foreign nationals in the NRC.

The Samitee demanded that documents issued by panchayat and village headmen in the past be recognised officially and called for steps to settle the cases of D-voters within a fixed timeframe.

There was also a call to the organisation to form a legal cell to help genuine citizens get rid of the D-voter tag.

The Samitee also demanded that border police, who have the power to lodge complaints against any person suspected of being a D-voter or foreign national, be brought under the preview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

While revising the voter list in 1997, the Election Commission had added the letter "D", which stands for doubtful voters, against names of people whose citizenship was questionable. The idea behind labelling people as D-voters was to weed out foreigners from among the legitimate citizens in the region, which has seen waves of migration over the years.

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