Guwahati:  Dubbing the violence in Assam's Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council (RHAC) areas as a 'political conspiracy', Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday accused opposition parties of encouraging the perpetrators.

19 killed in police firing

"There are political forces who are instigating them. But I do not want to name them," Gogoi told reporters here.

"How did hundreds of people suddenly come out with swords, sharp weapons and sticks. Who organised them? It was not voluntary boycott of the polls, but something attempted by use of force," the Chief Minister said.

Stating that the opposition did not put up candidates for the panchayat polls in RHAC areas, he said "They are not comfortable with decentralization of power. Why have the opposition not condemned those who attacked polling booths?" Gogoi questioned.

Asked directly if he was accusing opposition parties of encouraging Rabha Hasion Joint Action Committee supporters who attacked the polling booths, Gogoi said "I am saying that the opposition is encouraging them a hundred percent."

Questioned why he termed each incident of violence as a political conspiracy, the chief minister said "Political conspiracy is always there. I am not pointing to political conspiracy only in the case of the violence in Goalpara."
Gogoi said "most of the people who lost their lives were innocent people, while the leaders who incited them remain scot-free."

He said that despite Tuesday's violence, peaceful polling was reported from 68 per cent of the polling stations in the RHAC areas of Goalpara and Kamrup Rural districts.

"Of the 552 polling station in RHAC, including 308 in Goalpara and 244 in Kamrup Rural, polling took place in 381 booths," the chief minister said.

"That means that a majority of the electorate were supporting the polls and is a clear indication of the democratic spirit," Gogoi said, adding, over 70 percent polling took place.

Regarding prospects for repoll in the remaining 171 polling stations in RHAC areas where voting could not take place, Gogoi said that the priority was to maintain law and order.

"As for repoll, it is for the State Election Commission to decide the timings," he said.

He said the state government was committed to holding polls to the RHAC in the near future.

"Panchayat polls and elections for autonomous councils are two different things. However, both deal with decentralization of power and we are committed to the idea of decentralization," Gogoi said.

The Rabha Hasong Joint Action Committee had demanded holding of RHAC polls and opposed panchayat polls in the RHAC areas.

"We are under constitutional obligation to hold panchayat polls in the RHAC areas. Only in areas under Sixth Schedule are panchayat polls not held. Areas under autonomous councils are not outside the panchayati raj system," the chief minister said.

"While Autonomous Councils are for tribal people, panchayats are for all citizens in rural areas," he added.     Asked if his government would accept the request of the RHJAC to declare the RHAC as Sixth Schedule area, Gogoi said the decision lay with the Central government.

(Agencies)

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