Dispur to seek CBI probe

Guwahati/Dhubri, Feb. 13: Dispur has ordered Goalpara and Kamrup district administrations to register cases of violence that marred the panchayat poll in the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council area yesterday, as a precursor to moving the Centre for a CBI probe.

The order was issued soon after chief minister Tarun Gogoi today announced his government's decision to seek a CBI inquiry into the violence that was triggered by protests against holding of panchayat poll before council election. The violence left 19 dead ' 12 in police firing, one in looting and six in group clashes in Goalpara district. Over 300 houses were also torched.

Dispur has also ordered a judicial inquiry into the circumstances leading to the violence. The twin inquiries were ordered following widespread criticism that the government failed to apprehend the situation despite tell-tale signs of an impending storm. The roles of the state election commission, which conducted the poll, Dispur, the Goalpara deputy commissioner and superintendent of police, besides Rabha and non-Rabha groups, are being questioned.

Sources said if the CBI is entrusted with the responsibility of probing the violence, which Gogoi described as "organised" and "political conspiracy", the investigations would follow the pattern of the Kokrajhar riots that erupted in July last year. Over 100 people were killed and nearly five lakh displaced in the clashes.

"The CBI will choose the cases it wants to probe. We need to be ready before handing over the cases. Given the situation, inquiry by neutral agencies is a good move. We want the truth to come out," a source said. There is growing concern over frequent trouble rocking the state of late.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Gogoi admitted to lapses in assessing the situation but asserted that his government was committed to decentralisation of power. "I could have nominated a person of my choice to run panchayats or councils but I want decentralisation. I am committed to democracy. Despite disruption of the process at significant number of polling stations, voting was held in 68 per cent of the polling stations in Goalpara," he said, dubbing the 1995 Rabha Accord faulty.

He said polling was held in 381 of the 552 polling stations in Goalpara. CMO sources later said of the 171 booths where polling was not held or was disrupted, there was no violence in 121. "There was violence only in 50 polling stations. Firing took place in four of these booths and one outside," a source said.

The administration has imposed curfew in Krishnai and Mornoi police station areas with shoot-at-sight orders. Gogoi said additional companies had been rushed to the affected areas to control the situation and ensure peace. The army staged a flag march in these areas today. A state CID team is in Goalpara to probe the violence.

Gogoi flayed the Opposition for not criticising those who disrupted polling. He appealed for peace and asked senior MLA Bhumidhar Barman and ministers Rakibul Hussain, Nilamani Sen Deka and Rajiv Lochan Pegu to visit the affected areas. A seven-member Congress team will visit the affected areas.

An uneasy calm prevails in the council area. The situation in Goalpara and Kamrup districts turned grave following attacks on members of a particular community.

A source in Goalpara said over 300 houses, including those in Rakhasani village under Mornoi police station, Bekipul village under Krishnai police station and three villages in Govindapur area under Goalpara police station, were torched last night. The goons were from nearby villages. Netai Mondal of Mondalpara village and Subhas Biswas of Majherpara village alleged their houses were torched by people they knew. Both of them said they fled to save their lives but they knew the miscreants. The displaced are now taking shelter in schools and houses belonging to the Rabhas. Gogoi promised help to rebuild the houses.

A body was also recovered from Dhupdhara police station area. The person is suspected to have been killed by those opposed to the polls.

The Arabinda Rajkhowa and Paresh Barua factions of Ulfa today condemned the violence in the Rabha Hasong council area. ( )

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