Armed protesters who damaged property, and inciters will face legal action

The Assam Government on Thursday ordered an additional Chief Secretary-level probe into Wednesday's incidents in the city, where anti-eviction protesters went on the rampage and the police opened fire, resulting in the death of three persons.

The government directed the administration to gather video footage of the incidents and initiate legal action against protesters who came armed with lathis and stones and indulged in violence, causing damage to public and private property, and also against those who incited them.

Henceforth, the government would check the antecedents of any organisation seeking permission to hold protest programmes in the city, Education and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain told journalists here.

No negotiations would be held with the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), led by Right to Information activist Akhil Gogoi, under whose banner Wednesday's protest was staged seeking a complete halt to eviction on the city hills. The government would hammer out a solution by holding direct talks with the settlers.

“The government has decided not to talk to professional agitators i.e. anyone who has made launching agitations a profession,” Dr. Sarma said.

These decisions were taken at a review meeting convened by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

Dr. Sarma admitted that there was intelligence failure on the part of the police in anticipating violence. He alleged that the KMSS betrayed trust by indulging in violence though it had assured the district administration that the protest would be peaceful.

Apart from three Assam State Transport Corporation buses which were torched, about 170 private vehicles were damaged by the protesters. Replying to a question, Dr Sarma said a review on police capability to handle riot situations was needed.

The government would raise a 1000-strong battalion under the Forest Department for protecting unoccupied land on the city hills against encroachment. Of the nearly two lakh households in the city, about 95,000 were on the city hills. Till six years ago, there were only 30,000 households on the city hills, he said.

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