Assam violence toll 19; Gogoi admits lapses

Guwahati, Feb 13 (IANS) Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Wednesday admitted to his government's lapses for the violence in Goalpara and Kamrup districts during the panchayat polls in Assam, that killed 19 people.

"While 13 of them were killed due to police and security forces firing, another six were killed in attacks by the miscreants," Gogoi said.

Security personnel resorted to firing after a mob attacked officials in Goalpara who were in the area to conduct the third round of panchayat polling Tuesday.

Violence also took place in Kamrup, but all the 19 people, including six women, were killed in Goalpara. Many others were injured. The Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council (RHAC) areas fall in the two districts.

There were "political forces" which instigated the miscreants to carry out violence during the panchayat polls in the RHAC areas Tuesday in Goalpara, Gogoi said.

Indefinite curfew has been imposed in the RHAC areas since Tuesday and the government has ordered a judicial probe into the violence.

"We are also going to request the CBI to conduct a probe into yesterday's violence in RHAC areas," Gogoi told reporters.

He said the situation is under control as of now and that the last incident of violence was reported from the areas at 11.20 p.m. Tuesday.

"I admit that there had been lapses. Adequate security deployment had not been done in some areas where the miscreants took advantage," he said.

"The violence must have been planned in advance, otherwise how can thousands of people could come out to streets with...weapons," Gogoi said.

The chief minister, however, defended his government's move to hold panchayat polls in the RHAC areas.

"We are committed to democratic principles and were only performing our constitutional duty by holding the panchayat polls in RHAC areas," Gogoi said.

"The AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has condemned me for deciding to hold panchayat polls. The AGP, when in power, never held panchayat polls in Assam," he said.

The BJP also did not insist on holding panchayat polls. He said his government is committed to democracy and so it decided to hold the polls in the state, including in the RHAC areas.

"The Rabhas are not opposed to panchayat polls. There were 552 polling stations in RHAC areas and polling could not be done only in 171 polling stations due to violence. We have recorded 78 percent of polling in rest 381 polling stations. This implies that the Rabhas are not opposed to panchayat polls but it is the handiwork of miscreants," he said.

Besides the over-40 companies of security forces deployed in the RHAC areas in Goalpara district and parts of Kamrup district, the state government had rushed additional eight columns of the army to contain the situation in the areas affected by violence Tuesday.

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