Guwahati, Jan. 7: Gauhati High Court today asked Dispur to hold elections to the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council by April this year.
The order was passed by a single-judge bench of Justice B.K. Sharma on a writ petition (civil, number 5897/2012) filed by Monjit Karigapsa, a leader of the now dissolved Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC).
The petitioner's counsel, G.N. Sahewalla, said the court directed the state government to issue the notification for holding the elections in February, conduct the polls on April 18 and complete the counting of votes by April 25 so that the newly elected members could take oath of office on or before April 28.
The state government, vide notification number HAD-174/2012/19, dated December 3, 2012, had extended the term of the present council, which expired on December 6, by six months with effect from December 7 under Rule 7(1) of the Assam Autonomous Districts (Constitution of District Councils) Rule, 1951. It cited various reasons for extending the council's term like Busu Dima festival, signing of peace agreements with the two factions of Dima Hasao Daogah (Dilip Nunisa and Joel Gorlosa) and their subsequent disbanding, and the high school leaving certificate and higher secondary school leaving certificate examinations.
Challenging the extension of the term, the petitioner had sought holding of elections to the council in February or mid-March. But the court asked Dispur to issue the election notification in February and to complete the process by April since the counting of votes for panchayat elections in the state will end on February 15.
The last elections to the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council was held in two phases on November 26 and December 1 in 2007.
In another development, seven organisations, including the Karbi Students Union, today blocked National Highway 37 at Sonapur on the city's outskirts to demand elections in six constituencies of the Tiwa Autonomous Council in Dimoria before the three-phase panchayat polls, scheduled to begin on January 30. They threatened to launch a vigorous agitation if the government did not fulfil their demand.
The government had held elections to 30 constituencies of the council on June 7, 2010, but elections were not held in 33 Khetri, 26 Dimoria, 34 Sonapur, 36 Phongari, 32 Digaru and 35 Amri because of the "law and order situation".
The blockade, which left hundreds of vehicles stranded, continued for about an hour before senior police and civil officials persuaded protesters to lift it.
In yet another development, non-Rabha organisations warned of a 2008-like violence in the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council area if the government did not exclude villages with less than 50 per cent Rabha population from the council area before holding the panchayat elections.
The Garo-Ajanajati Sanmilita Sangram Samity blocked railway tracks at Bamungaon in Kamrup district while others halted traffic on NH37 near Mirza to press for the demand. The Kamakhya-Gaya Express was stranded for nearly three hours before police arrested 2,000-odd protesters to clear the tracks.
"We will not allow the panchayat election unless 799 villages comprising non-tribal people are excluded from the council areas. If our demand is not met, there is every possibility of repetition of 2008-like violence here and the Assam government will be held responsible for any untoward incident," the samity's president, Keshab Chandan, told this correspondent.
The panchayat elections had to be postponed in the Rabha Hasong areas, which fall in Goalpara and Kamrup districts, because of violence in 2008.