Despite boycott and bandh calls by non-Rabha organisations

Over 70 per cent of votes were cast in the first phase of polling to the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council (RHAC) in Assam that was held under heavy security on Wednesday amidst bandh and boycott calls by several organisations.

The polls were opposed to press their demand for exclusion of villages dominated by non-Rabha communities from the council.

State Election Commissioner Biren Dutta told The Hindu that the first phase of polling held in 13 of the 36 constituencies of the council passed off peacefully with no report of any untoward incident.

He said the final poll percentage might go up as reports of a number of polling stations were still awaited.

Mr. Dutta said that credit for high turnout should go to the voters who he said, were enthusiastic to participate in the democratic exercise to get an elected body to run the affairs of the council. It was for the first time since its inception in 1995 that the tribal council comprising of areas in lower Assam’s Goalpara and Kamrup districts went to a three-phase poll beginning on Wednesday.

The second and the third phases of polling are scheduled to be held on November 16 and 25.

Responding to an appeal issued by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday to withdraw bandhs and boycotts to create a congenial atmosphere for resolving various issues amicably across the negotiation table, several non-Rabha bodies on Wednesday relaxed their agitation programmes.

The Ajanajati Chatra Santha, a student body claiming to represent non-tribal students of RHAC areas, that earlier called for 12-day Rabha Hasong area bandh beginning Wednesday till the third phase of polling, announced that the bandh would now be observed only on November 14, 15, 24 and 25.

The Ajanajati Garo Sanmilita Sangram Samiti (AGSSS), a coordination body of non-tribal communities and the Garo tribe of RHAC areas, however, announced that its poll boycott call would continue for the second the third phase of polling too.