Violence still rocks Assam as tribals’ strike continues


Guwahat : Violence continued to rock Assam with the 36-hour general strike called by tribals entering its last leg Tuesday. At least 10 more people were injured and several vehicles were damaged.

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A police spokesman said strike supporters attacked a group of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) activists near village Bordubi in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.

“Adivasi (tribal) supporters also attacked a police vehicle, damaging the patrol van and injuring a policeman. Two AASU activists were also wounded in a separate attack,” a senior police official said.

Eight tribal activists were arrested for the attack on the police patrol.

There were sporadic incidents of violence reported from Kokrajhar, Dibrugarh and Sonitpur districts Tuesday in which seven people were injured in clashes with strike supporters.

“A group of strike supporters damaged a vehicle of Oil India Limited although the occupants managed to escape,” the official said.

On the first day of the strike Monday, one person was killed and 20 injured in separate incidents, officials said.

The strike has been called by the All Adivasi Students Association (AASA) in protest against Saturday’s mob violence in the state’s main city of Guwahati that had left one of their community members dead and more than 200 injured. The strike ends at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The tribals account for about six percent of Assam’s 26 million people. Most of them work in the state’s 800-odd tea plantations.

Saturday’s clashes took place after thousands of tribals marched through a street in Guwahati to press for recognition of the community as a Scheduled Tribe for greater reservation and other benefits. Local residents clashed with the protesters after some of them pelted stones at vehicles and ransacked shops.

The AASA strike, backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, has evoked a mixed response across Assam with major cities including Guwahati remaining free of its impact. However, areas surrounding tea gardens have been hit by the strike.

In eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district, clashes erupted once again between the tribals and locals after some strike supporters damaged a few vehicles on a highway.

“Hundreds of Adivasis were trying to stage protest rallies but were prevented at various places. The situation is tense,” a police official said from Tinsukia.

“We have sounded a red alert across the state, and have asked the police and the paramilitary to maintain strict vigil in all tribal strongholds, mostly the tea garden areas,” said Assam minister Ripun Bora.

An militant tribal group called The Adivasi National Liberation Army (ANLA) has, meanwhile, set a 36-hour deadline to the Assam government to furnish a list of those dead and injured in Saturday’s clashes.

Tribal leaders in the state have refused to accept the claim of the authorities that only one of the protesters had died in the clashes in Guwahati. AASA president Justin Lakra told reporters at least 20 of their protesters were killed during Saturday’s clashes.

“The bodies had gone missing mysteriously,” he alleged.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi Monday ordered a judicial investigation to probe Saturday’s mob violence.

“We shall not spare anybody found guilty in the probe,” Gogoi said.

Assam’s main opposition Asom Gana Parishad has also called for Gogoi’s resignation accusing the police of total failure and inaction.