Election violence: 20 tribal people dead

Police told to shoot on sight

Anirban Roy, Kolkata, India

February 14, 2013

At least 20 tribal Rabha people have been killed in Assam state during protests against a village election after authorities issued orders to police to shoot on sight.

Assam’s chief minister Taurun Gogoi said on Thursday that he would accept responsbility for the bloodshed as curfews continued into a third day in some parts of the town of Goalpara.

Police responded to protests following Tuesday's election by firing directly at demonstrators, killing 13 people. Seven more people were killed when Rabha villagers began fighting with non-Rabha villagers.

Thousands of Rabha armed with iron rods, axes and machetes attacked police and set fire to polling stations following an election they said infringed on tribal authority.

The Rabha have demanded complete autonomy in areas in which they are the majority.

“How can we allow these village elections?” said Tankeswar Rabha, president of the All Rabha Students Union. “We will fight to guarantee the true sense of autonomy for our people.”

The Congress Party-led state government has imposed a curfew in the area following the violence, and deployed soldiers to assist state police in keeping the peace.

The larger Bodo tribal community was previously granted autonomy which gave them limited legislative, executive and judicial control over areas in which they are in the majority in Assam.

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