|Administration's midnight operation boomerangs, North Bank tense|
GUWAHATI/DHEMAJI, Dec 26: The entire North bank of the State continues to remain tense following the forceful evacuation of anti-dam protestors from three makeshift camps on National Highway 52 on Monday night. Hours after anti-dam activists of five organizations, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) secretary Akhil Gogoi, announced the extension of their blockade for an indefinite period on Monday morning, police and Army personnel descended at the protest site late last night and forcefully evacuated the protesters, saying that Section 144 has been imposed in the area. Around 200 KMSS activists, including its secretary Akhil Gogoi, were arrested and detained in the Lakhimpur Police Station.
As news of the arrest of the KMSS activists spread, thousands of people today came out on the streets of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji district demanding immediate release of the jailed activists and an immediate stop to the construction of the mega hydel power project in Gerukamukh of Lakhimpur.
The two districts have come to a complete halt, with the KMSS and four other organizations calling a 48-hour bandh from the morning today. Protests against the alleged police high-handedness was held in several other parts of the State as well. Petrol depots in Lakhimpur district, which were shut down forcibly by the protestors since yesterday afternoon, remained closed today as well.
Tens of thousands of protestors gathered at Gogamukh Chariali, Silapthar, Subansiri Chauldhuwa (Tekeraguri), Boginadi, Rangandi and other places on National Highway 52 and placed trees and boulders on the road to prevent the movement of vehicles. The police had to resort to baton charge and blank firing in the morning today to dispell the protestors.
Anti-dam activists said they had stopped several trucks and tankers carrying construction material at Ranganadi yesterday night when they were apprehended by the security forces. The vehicles were escorted by the police from Lakhimpur under the cover of darkness.
Talking to The Sentinel, Lakhimpur DC Anwaruddin Chowdhury said, "The activists had stopped the movement of vehicles carrying NHPC material from December 16 last. Though the blockade was meant only for vehicles carrying NHPC goods and construction material, the agitators had started to stop the movement of tankers carrying petrol and essential commodities to Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Arunachal Pradesh. Petrol depots were beginning to close down in Dhemaji and Lakhimpur and prices of essential commodities had also increased."
Stating that the government could not allow the agitators to take the law into their own hands, Chowdhury said, "In the greater interest of society, the district administration imposed Section 144 in the area from Ranganadi bridge to Gagar tiniali last night. Since the evacuators did not pay heed to our request to disperse from the area, we had to forcefully evict them."
Stating that the police had to resort to blank firing against a few protestors who had assembled to block vehicles in Sauldhuwa today morning, the Lakhimpur DC said that no agitator was injured in the entire evacuation exercise.
The blockade by the anti-dam activists had badly hit the supply of fuel and essential commodities to the NHPC workers in Gerukamukh and the people of the three districts of East, West and Upper Siang of Arunachal Pradesh. The Deputy Commissioner of East Siang District had sent a SOS message to the Lakhimpur DC requesting him to facilitate the movement of stranded tankers to the neighboring State.
Terming the action of the security forces as unbefitting of a democratically elected government, Akhil Gogoi said at Lakhimpur that no NHPC vehicle would be allowed to move until the authorities conceded to their demand of scraping the dam. The outlawed ULFA has also criticized the crackdown on the protestors.
NFFPFW / Human Rights Law Centre
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