A rally by Adivasis demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status turned into bloodbath in Guwahati on Saturday, killing one person— though the unofficial toll was 7—and injuring over 300. The riot-like situation made the state government clamp partial curfew in the state capital besides sounding a red alert across Assam to prevent a backlash in the tea growing belts.
In what was reminiscent of the Gujjar violence in Rajasthan, some 10,000 protestors vandalised shops, damaged more than 350 vehicles and ransacked residential complexes after they were thwarted by the police from gheraoing the Assembly complex.
The attacks and the resultant mass lynching took place along a 5-km stretch between the rally ground at Beltola and the Assembly-Secretariat complex.
Much of the violence was concentrated at Beltola Tiniali, barely 2-km from the highly guarded official residence of the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.
According to the police, the All Adivasi Students Association of Assam was allowed five hours to hold the rally from 10 am at the ground, which ironically was guarded by only 22 security personnel. Midway through the rally, the student leaders egged the rallyists on to gherao the Assembly.
Half an hour later, all hell broke loose after the rallyists—many armed with bows and arrows—rained arrows on traders, molested women and looted residential complexes. Irate residents hit back with everything they could lay their hands on. The suddenness of the violence had caught the police by surprise.
Subhas Das, Principal Secretary in charge of Home, admitted that the situation was grim but under control. “We have asked the district authorities to be on high alert," he said.