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Assam panchayat polls: 8 killed in police firing;CM firm on repolling

Posted on Feb 13, 10:06AM | UNI

Guwahati, Feb 12 : At least eight people were killed and several others injured in police firing at four places to control and disperse people protesting voting during Panchayat polls in Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council (RHAC) areas in western Assam today.

Even as polling at several places in the disturbed areas had to be stopped and polling officials and security personnel evacuated to safety under additional security cover, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi affirmed on repolling at those places at a later date.

Assam Police spokesperson SN Singh confirmed that the death toll was eight in police firing so far.

Police had to resort to firing in the air in four places, Silopathar, Kahibari, Palsar and Kachuela, as protestors tried to storm the polling stations and prevented people from casting their votes.

Eight people were killed in police firing, while three others were injured, Mr Singh said.

A CRPF jawan and the office in-charge of Krishnai police station of Gaolpara district were injured in attacks by the protestors.

Some polling officials also sustained minor injuries when the protestors threw stones at the polling stations or their vehicles.

Rabha bodies have been opposing Panchayat polls in the Council areas, though the state government has made it clear that it was legally bound to hold the village-level polls in RHAC as it is not under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The RHAC polls are slated for April end.

The protestors, armed with sticks and other sharp weapons, took to the roads in hundreds across the RHAC areas since polling commenced this morning.

They stormed several polling stations and burnt ballot boxes, vehicles and schools, which had been turned into polling stations.

The protestors also torched three vehicles, including buses, and two houses.

The polling was held amidst a 'public curfew' called by a conglomerate of Rabha bodies against the Panchayat polls.

Today's incidents were preceded by several acts of arson, targeting schools, bridges, panchayat offices and candidates' houses in the RHAC area, mostly in Goalpara district.

The Chief Minister, in a statement here, affirmed that Panchayat polls will be conducted in the RHAC areas.

He said the government has to hold the Panchayat elections in the Rabha Hasong areas 'as it considers it to be its constitutional duty.'

He added that polling will be held at a later date in areas where it was not possible to hold polling today.

The Chief Minister also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to next of kin of those deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

The government was keeping an eye on any communal and ethnic colours the violence may assume, he said.