They were opposing local traders buying mekhla chadors from Varanasi

An indefinite curfew was clamped and the Army called out in Assam’s silk village Sualkuchi on Saturday after a protest by weavers turned violent.

They were opposing procurement by local traders of mekhla chadors (traditional attire of Assamese women) made of silk from Varanasi.

Three persons sustained bullet injuries when police fired rubber bullets at the protesters. Earlier, the police tried in vain to control the situation by resorting to baton charge and firing teargas shells. The weavers torched silk products from Varanasi. The incident occurred during a 12-hour bandh called by the weavers demanding protection of their interests.

The agitators claimed that Varanasi mekhla chadors were threatening the survival of the over 10 centuries-old weaving tradition. They looked like the traditional Assamese products and came cheap as weavers there mixed cheaper yarn with mulberry silk.

With the Rongali Bihu festival just a fortnight away, the weavers were hoping for a boom in sales. But the Varanasi chadors dashed their hopes.

Trouble began on Friday with the Sualkuchi weavers demanding that the traders hand over to them chadors procured from outside. After seizing the stock, the weavers set them on fire. Police fired blanks to disperse the weavers. Home Secretary G.D. Tripathi told The Hindu that one column of the Army was deployed in the silk village to assist the civil authorities in restoring normality.

The Asom Gana Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party flayed the Congress-led coalition government for failing to protect the interests of the weavers and the traditional silk industry.

AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta alleged that the police firing on the weavers revealed the “fascist character” of the ruling Congress.