Eleven killed in police firing during Assam panchayat polls

Eleven people were killed in police firing and seven CRPF personnel and policemen injured in violence in Goalpara district during the third and final phase of the panchayat elections in Assam today.

Four people were killed in Kahiribari, two each in Kasadhal, Chilukut and Rakshishini and one in Bekipul after the police opened fire, police sources said. The firing took place when those in Rabha Hasong Autonomous District Council areas opposed to the holding of the panchayat elections ahead of the Autonomous Council polls, attacked polling centres in different parts of the district, the sources said.

Principal Secretary Home G D Tripathy told PTI that large groups of people attacked polling centres forcing the police to open fire. The dead, including three women, were identified as Panchami Rabha, Alka Rabha, Nipon Rabha, Pradip Rabha, Dharanidhar Rabha, Kenki Rabha, Bichitra Rabha, Patan Rabha, Amiya Rabha, Amrit Rabha and Jare Rabha.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi announced Rs five lakh for the next of kin of those killed in the police firing. Gogoi said that nobody could stop polling as it was a democratic process. Four CRPF personnel and three policemen personnel, including the Officer-in-Charge of Krishnai police station were seriously injured in the violence, the sources said.

Following the violence, the army was deployed in Krishnai police station area where indefinite curfew was imposed, Principal Secretary (Home) G D Tripathy said. Several other people were injured in poll-related clashes in different parts of the district where five vehicles, including two each of police and polling personnel and a media house, were set on fire, the sources said.

A mob of 400 men and women armed with iron rods, axes, machetes and sticks attacked a polling station at Kathalmari school at Kahibari under Dhupdhora police station, the sources said.

At Rakkhaysin polling station miscreants attempted to throw petrol bombs, but the voters beat them up, the sources said. Miscreants attacked the Boko Dekapara police station and polling personnel before setting ablaze their vehicle, they said, adding that the Lalmati Lower Primary School and Hahim post office were torched.

Ballot papers were set on fire at Dorapar polling centre at Agia, the sources said. Disturbances were also reported at Khulakhati area of Hajo, Sambhar and Tokorapar lower primary schools voting centres.

In neighbouring Kamrup (Rural) district also large scale violence and arson were reported. The Joint Action Committee comprising a number of Rabha and Hasong organisations called a 'janata curfew' from 7:00 AM yesterday till 7:00 PM today.

Funds would be released from the government for repair of schools destroyed in the poll violence, the chief minister said. Parliamentary Secretary(Home) Rana Goswami said "There is a conspiracy behind the violence."

He said that miscreants who restorted violence have been identified and stern action would be taken after polling. Goalpara Deputy Commissioner Preetam Saikia said out of the 807 polling stations in the district, voting was held peacefully in 687 booths while violence erupted in and around the remaining centres.

Poll violence was also reported from Barak Valley districts where several people were injured in clashes among different party supporters in Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi.

Police resorted to blank firing at a polling centre in Lala Amarbati Lower Primary School when ballot papers were snatched away, police sources said. Clashes also took place at Katigora, Borkhola, Chappa and West Silchar of Cachar district as well as Nilambazar, Ratabari, Patharkandi and West Karimganj of Karimganj district, the sources said.

Ballot papers were snatched away and some ballot boxes thrown into ponds by miscreants in both the districts leading to clashes, they said. Attempts at poll rigging were also made at various polling centres, they added.

In Nagaon district two persons were injured in rival party skirmishes at Mubarak Basti Lower Primary School.

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