Two tribal activists were burned to death and 12 others, including policemen, injured when protesting tribal agitators turned violent in the western state of Goa yesterday. The situation remained tense today when they set a truck on fire. About 7,000 tribals under the United Tribals Association Alliance (UTAA) laid siege to three vital points, paralysing road and rail traffic, chopping down trees and removing fishplates from railway tracks in support of their demands at Balli, Canacona in the state capital Panaji. The UTAA’s 12 demands included setting up of a Schedule Tribes Commission, implementation of the Tribal Forest Act, reservation for tribal in government jobs and a tribal ministry. Trouble started when police tried to clear the blockade after the government had agreed to most of their demands. But the agitators threw stones at the police. Soon the locals began to vent their ire on the tribals and they set fire to a cooperative credit society and a cashew nut project owned by a tribal leader. Tribal-owned vehicles were also torched. Two workers, Manguesh Gaonkar and Dilip Velip, of the cashew nut project, were trapped in the blaze, while four managed to escape with minor injuries. Police have registered a case against former minister Prakash Velip, BJP MLA Ramesh Tawadkar and some other leaders. Chief minister Digambar Kamat said yesterday that the government has fulfilled the tribals’ main demands and has promised to look into the rest. “Their main demand was for the constitution of a Schedule Tribes Commission and this has been formed.” However, he said he could not meet the demand for reservation of five assembly seats for tribals. Prakash Velip, UTAA president, said the government has been fooling the tribals with “empty assurances” for the past eight years. Tribals account for 12 percent of the state population of 1.4 million. Salesian Father George Quadros who has initiated pioneering work amongst tribals, said “the issues ought to be resolved soonest, or this will turn into another troubled zone like the northeast.” ID14315
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