Curfew in parts of Guwahati after mob violence


Guwahati : Authorities in Assam late Saturday put the death toll in mob violence in Guwahati at one contrary to earlier reports of five deaths, even as parts of the state’s main city were put under indefinite curfew.

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“The death toll is now officially confirmed to be just one although there was some confusion about the casualty figure,” Guwahati District Magistrate Avinash Joshi told journalists.

Police and other civil officials had earlier put the figure at five dead in a mob attack on tribal protestors.

Local television channels however continued to mention the death toll at 12 in their evening bulletins.

Parts of Guwahati city were put under an indefinite curfew in afternoon.

Trouble began when thousands of Adivasi or tribal people, backed by the All Assam Adivasi Students’ Association (AAASA), took out a protest march through the city streets demanding scheduled tribe status.

“Residents of Guwahati and the protesters clashed in the streets after the agitators went on a rampage damaging about 100 vehicles and destroying shops. The angry locals retaliated by attacking the protesters,” a senior police official said wishing not to be named.

More than 130 protesters were injured in the attack.

Police fired teargas shells to disperse the protesters when they tried to break a security cordon to take out the march through the city streets.

“Local residents armed with sticks and iron rods, besides crude implements, attacked the fleeing protesters and beat them mercilessly,” Parag Moni Aditya, a witness, said.

“The mob attack took place after the protesters started damaging vehicles and shops belonging to commoners in the area,” the police official said.

Police and paramilitary troopers then blocked a major stretch of the city to prevent the protestors from being attacked by the mob.

“An indefinite curfew was enforced as a precautionary measure,” C.K. Das, a magistrate, said.

The injured, including women, were shifted to hospitals.

“The condition of at least 30 of the injured is very serious,” a doctor at the Guwahati Medical College said.

The Adivasis are mostly engaged in Assam’s tea plantations and accounts for about six percent of the state’s 26 million people.

A security alert was sounded across Assam with authorities fearing a backlash by the Adivasis on Assamese pockets in tea garden dominated areas.

“We appeal for calm and restraint and urge everybody not to give a political colour to the incident,” Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

Meanwhile, the AAASA has called a 36-hour statewide general strike beginning Sunday morning to protest the attack.