Guwahati, March 10: The Dhemaji district administration has clamped indefinite curfew in Silapathar after six shops were set on fire in the heart of the town. The administration had earlier clamped night curfew.
The All Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Sanmilan has called a 12-hour Dhemaji district bandh from 5 am tomorrow, a bandh which will take the number of days affected due to bandh in Silapathar to five. This was when trouble broke out on Monday evening after an AASU office was attacked allegedly by a group of Hindu Bengalis who were part of the Nikhil Bharat Bangali Udbastu Samanway Samitee (Nibbuss) procession seeking removal of the D-voters list.
Businessmen in Silapathar were uncertain about reopening their shops while locals suffered from shortage of essential commodities as there are around 1,000 big and small shops in the town. Three districts of neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, which depend on Silapathar and Dhemaji towns for supply of essential commodities, also reeled under the impact.
Asked how long their ban on shops owned by Bengalis would continue, the general secretary of AASU’s Dhemaji district unit, Krishna Ranjan Chutia, said that they would discuss the issue. He also accused the state government of “playing foul” over the arrest of Subodh Biswas, president of the Nibbuss.
The Tai Ahom Yuba Parishad said the government’s failure to arrest Biswas had exposed its weakness.
A nine-member Assembly committee, led by Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, which had visited Silapathar on Wednesday, submitted its report today. It recommended arrest of all persons, including Biswas, named in the FIR filed by AASU in Silapathar police station. It also recommended action against an assistant teacher of Sila Janajati School who had reportedly taken the initiative in organising the Nibbuss meeting on Monday, treatment of injured AASU activists, repair of the AASU office and an adjacent school damaged by protesters, and erection of Bhupen Hazarika’s statue on the premises of the AASU office in Silapathar.
AASU activists today “purified” the Swahid Bedi on their office campus with milk, alleging that the attackers had defiled it.
Assam director-general of police Mukesh Sahay and chief secretary Vinod Kumar Pipersenia visited the town today and held meetings with senior officials of the police and district administration and representatives of organisations. They also visited the AASU office and the venue where Nibbuss had held its meeting on Monday. They faced protests by student organisations who burnt effigies of chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
Superintendent of police Nilesh Sawakare said 14 companies of Assam police battalion were deployed in the town today and several companies of paramilitary forces were shifted there from Jorhat and North Lakhimpur. Section 144 CrPC continued in the district while night curfew continued in Silapathar and adjoining Simen Chapori. Goons had set fire to two shops in Silapathar and three houses at Sengajan and Majarbari in Simen Chapori last night despite the curfew.
They had set five houses on fire in Simen Chapori on Wednesday and Police have arrested 30 persons in connection with the Silapathar incident so far.
Several organisations, such as the Tai Ahom Yuba Parishad and the Left Democratic Manch, a forum of 11 parties, blamed the BJP-led state government and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which aims to give citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, for the incident. They demanded that the state government take a stand on the bill.
In a statement, the Mancha accused Nibbuss of trying to spark a conflict between the Bengalis and Assamese. “Amid all this, it is a good sign that several Bengali organisations have come out against Nibbuss,” it stated.
The AASU organised a statewide protest against the Silapathar incident, reiterating that Assam will not accept any Bangladeshi national who has entered Assam after March 24, 1971.
The Uttar Assam chapter of the RSS condemned the incident and threatened legal action against those blaming it. It demanded arrest of those involved in the incident.