Protestors squatted on railway tracks, pelted stones at vehicles and burnt tyres on roads in some districts in Assam during a 12-hour state-wide bandh Saturday called to protest the gunning down of five men in Tinsukia district. The shutdown, which began at 5 am, mostly affected life in Barak Valley, which is predominantly inhabited by Bengali-speaking people, and parts of the Brahmaputra Valley, officials said. The bandh was called by the Sadou Asom Bengali Yuba Chatra Federation and several like-minded organisations to protest the incident on Thursday night, when five Bengali-speaking men, including three of a family, were killed by gunmen at Kheronibari village. The Congress is supporting the bandh in Barak. The BJP has extended its support to the stir in Hailakandi, district BJP president Subrata Nath said in a release.
Tinsukia and Dibrugarh were exempted from the purview of the bandh as the two districts had observed a strike on Friday. Shops, business establishments, educational institutions, private offices remained closed and vehicles kept off the roads in the Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Karimganj. Congress MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, who came out to impose the bandh in Silchar, was picked up by the police. He was released later, the officials said. In Brahmaputra Valley, demonstrators shouting slogans and holding placards demanding security for Bengalis came out in large numbers in the railway town of Lumding in Hojai district and squatted on the train tracks near the station. Commercial establishments kept their shutters down and vehicles did not ply in Hojai district. At Samoguri and Amoni in Hojai, bandh supporters blocked highways and pelted stones at vehicles damaging several buses and trucks, sources said.
There were reports of clashes between supporters of the bandh and those opposing it at Jogighopa in Bongaigaon district but the situation was brought under control by the police. At Dalgaon in Darrang district, 17 people were detained when they tried to prevent normal movement of traffic. The bandh had no impact in capital city Guwahati where normal life continued with offices, commercial establishments, educational institutions, banks remaining open and vehicles plying on the roads, the sources added. The Assam Government had Friday directed district deputy commissioners (DC) to ensure normal functioning in all government establishments, vehicular movement of traffic, and business establishments. All security agencies were to be kept on high alert to prevent any breach of peace which might lead to law and order issues, the order had said. Utmost vigil was to be maintained to prevent spread of any kind of rumour, hate mongering and communal discord, it said.