11 die in Assam violence over panchayat polls

At least 11 persons were killed — nine of them in police firing — as mob violence broke out at several places in Goalpara district in lower Assam over strong opposition by several tribal groups to holding of panchayat elections in areas earmarked for the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council.

DGP J N Choudhury said police and security forces were compelled to open fire after large mobs attacked police vehicles, polling stations and officials as also people going out to vote, leading to at least 11 deaths. Two persons died in group clashes, he added.

"Mobs armed with lathis and iron rods blocked roads and attacked polling parties that went out to conduct panchayat elections, after which the police and other paramilitary forces also became targets when they went out to stop the violence. While nine persons died in police firing, at least two were killed in group clashes that occurred in different places between those opposed to the election and those supporting it," the DGP said.

Curfew was imposed in some of the violence-affected areas. Mobs also set on fire houses in three villages, two of them belonging to supporters of the panchayat election.

While Tuesday was the third and final phase of panchayat election in Assam, several organisations under the banner of the Rabha Hasong Joint Action Committee had called upon the government to stop the election in areas that have been demarcated for the proposed Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council. The government, however, went ahead with the election, with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi saying holding panchayat elections would not affect formation of the autonomous council for the Rabha community.

Four columns of the Army were deployed in the district and flag marches were carried out in different places to control the situation. A defence spokesman said additional columns of the Army have been kept on standby in view of the tense situation.

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