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Mar 4, 2013

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Rabha Situation in Assam

Union Home Minister Shri Sushilkumar Shinde outlined the situation in Rabha-Hasong areas of Assam in Rajya Sabha on 27.02.2013 in Goalpara district of Assam as follow:-

“An issue was raised in the House concerning deaths of people in connection with the Panchayat elections in Goalpara District of Assam due to large scale disturbances and violence resorted to by people protesting the elections. Sir, in this regard I would like to first provide the background of this incident.

The State Government of Assam had established a Rabha – Hasong Autonomous Council (RHAC) in 1995 through a State Legislation. The Council was primarily created for socio-economic, educational and cultural advancement of the Rabha tribe. There had been demands for inclusion of all Rabha villages in the Council. After long deliberations, 779 villages were notified as falling under RHAC. These villages are located within the geographical boundaries of Goalpara and Kamrup districts. From time to time, demands have been raised to bring the Council under the sixth schedule to the Constitution of India. Other tribes and non-tribals living in this area are opposed to this demand. It is to be noted that the RHAC being under a State Legislation, continuation of Panchayati Raj institutions in the area remained mandatory under Constitutional provisions.

When the Panchayat elections became due, the Rabhas demanded elections to RHAC to be conducted before the Panchayat elections. But the Council constituencies were awaiting delimitation. Considering this and other logistical and law and order issues, the State Election Commission decided to hold the Panchayat elections first in the month of February and the elections to RHAC on 30th April, 2013.

Out of the eight districts which went to third phase of the Panchayat elections on 12th of February, 2013, polls passed off peacefully in seven districts. But in Goalpara District, it was disrupted by a large group of miscreants who attacked polling personnel as well as the security forces at many places. 25 security personnel and ten polling personnel got injured. The security forces had to resort to firing to control the violence at six places. This resulted in deaths of 14 persons. Other seven persons died due to ethnic clashes. Despite the disruption of poll process, polling could be completed successfully in 636 polling stations out of 807 polling stations going to polls in the district.

In order to control the situation Army was deployed in the area. Besides, additional six companies Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) were provided to the State Government in addition to 43 companies of CAPF deployed in Goalpara District on 12.02.2013. Curfew was clamped in the violence affected area and Army flag march was conducted. Another four columns of army were kept as standby. The situation which had the potential to become an ethnic carnage could be controlled in less than 24 hours. [Extracts]

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