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                    Vol.3, No.4 [*] February 17, 1997

             There was never a night or a problem that could
                         defeat sunrise or hope.
                            - Bern  Williams

   Defying the poll boycott call by the ULFA, people of Assam cast their
   votes in all the 14  constituencies  in  the  State  to  elect  their
   representatives  to  the  12th  Lok  Sabha  as 45 percent polling was
   officially recorded on an average, amid reports of  massive  turnouts
   in  immigrant  Muslims  and  tea-tribe  dominated areas, the two hill
   districts of Karbi Anglong and North  Cachar  Hills,  and  the  Barak
   valley.   Polling  in  large  numbers  of  centres  spread  over  the
   Brahmaputra valley, including the BAC area, however, was low.
   Barring  some  incidents  of  snatching  of ballot-boxes and election
   materials in over 100 polling booths, and attempts by  the  militants
   to intimidate  the voters, the polling was by and large peaceful.  It
   may be  mentioned  that  not  a  single  company  of  the  additional
   paramilitary forces to maintain law and order during the polling, had
   arrived  in  the  State. 
   Security  in  the  polling  stations were quite slack with only a few
   Assam Police constables seen on duty in each of  them.    Shops  were
   closed  and  the  streets  were  deserted  with  only the vehicles on
   election duty moved about, an overcast sky with an inclement  weather
   in many  parts of Assam added to a complete pall of gloom.  The scene
   was that of a bandh day, though there was no call for a bandh by  any
   organization.   However,  the  situation  in Majuli was different and
   people in large numbers cast their vote as over  70  percent  polling
   was recorded.
   A  large number of voters in several Assembly segments under Guwahati
   Lok Sabha seat did not find their names  in  the  voters  list.    In
   Dispur  LAC,  even  an  AGP  councillor  of  the  Guwahati  Municipal
   Corporation could not find his name in the voters list.    All  these
   voters  are  indigenous  people  and  some of them are even prominent
   It  may  be  mentioned  that  in  view  of  the Supreme Court verdict
   refusing to stay  the  Election  Commission  decision  not  to  allow
   persons  against  whose  name  'D' (for doubtful) is mentioned in the
   voters list, to vote, the Election Commission directed  the  district
   authorities to ensure that these voters are not allowed to vote.
   According to AIR reports, the State Election  Commissioner  has  said
   that a list of all polling stations is compiled where re-poll will be
   ordered with the approval of the Election Commission due to snatching
   away of ballot-boxes and election materials.

   Meanwhile,  an  UNI  report  said  that  the  Assam  State  Transport
   Corporation (ASTC) managing director Khagen Chetia was arrested under
   the National Security Act (NSA) for not being able  to  maintain  the
   transport service during the poll hours.

   The ruling AGP congratulated the 'brave people of Assam'  for  having
   defied  the call of the militant outfits and participated actively in
   large numbers in the polling on February 16.  In  an  statement,  AGP
   president  and  Chief Minister P.K.Mahanta said, the elections to the
   12th Lok Sabha would be  considered  as  a  development  of  historic
   significance in the State.
   The  threat  of  the militant outfits to curb the democratic right of
   the people to vote, the Election Commissions lack of understanding of
   the ground realities of Assam and the total lack of cooperation  from
   the  Central  Government  had  put the people of Assam in a difficult
   position during the elections.  It was an  unprecedented  and  bitter
   experience for all of us, he said.
   Meanwhile, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa congratulated  the  people
   of  Assam  for  having 'displayed the courage' to boycott the 'Indian
   elections.' In a faxed statement, he said  the  elections  today  had
   proved that 80 percent of the people of Assam had not participated in
   them,  while only 20 percent, comprising the Army and the police, the
   political leaders  and  their  supporters  and  the  immigrants  from
   neighbouring countries  had  participated in them.  It had now become
   evident that the people had refused to be cowed down under threats of
   the 'Indian state machinery', he said.

   A  Bangladesh  court  on  February  16  rejected  a   writ   petition
   challenging  the  extradition  'attempt'  of  Anup  Chetia,  the ULFA
   general secretary wanted in India in connection with  several  murder
   cases.  Delivering the verdict, the Judges held that Section 4 of the
   Extradition  Act  and Section 2 (F) of the Special Powers Act enables
   the government to hand over or send Chetia to his country of origin.
   Calling the petition by the human rights organization 'premature' the
   Judges said the petitioner had no locus standi in  filing  the  writ.
   Moreover,  a  news  item  containing  the remarks of Foreign Minister
   cannot be the basis of a petition, they added.   The  petitioner  had
   prayed for the issuance of a rule calling upon the government to show
   cause  as to why Chetia's extradition could not be stayed as he was a
   'freedom fighter' fighting for the rights of his people.

   A  polling  officer  Tilok Nath, was killed and five others seriously
   injured when their bus collided head on with a truck on the  national
   highway near Tezpur in Sonitpur district on February 14.  The polling
   personnel were on their way to Tezpur from Jamuguri.
   In a separate incident, a polling official, Mr Hasinuddin Ahmed  (40)
   collapsed  and died on the veranda of a polling station at Khumtai in
   Golaghat district at 6:45 am on February 16, even before the  polling
   started.    He  was  an  employee  of  the  Weaving  and  Sericulture
   department and hailed from Titabar.

   In a rare case of bravado, an Assam Police constable on election duty
   and wielding only a baton, chased away  an  armed  ULFA  militant  by
   beating  him  up,  from  a  polling  booth at North Salmara in Dhubri
   district on February 16.  The  cop  snatched  one  magazine  with  17
   rounds of  ammunition.    The  militant  armed  with  a  stengun  had
   threatened the polling officials and the voters.  He  also  fired  at
   another police  constable  who escaped unhurt.  The militant fled the
   scene when the other constable attacked him.

Compiled from newspaper and agency reports for private circulation only.
      [S=Sentinel, AT=Assam Tribune, Agencies = UNI, PTI, PIB]