Assam bandh starts ahead of first phase panchayat poll

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Guwahati, Dec 30 (UNI) A 36-hour Assam bandh called by six communities began this morning as the state geares up for the first phase of panchayat election tomorrow.

A united forum of six communities of the state-- Tai-Ahom, tea tribes, Moran, Mottock, Chutia and Koch-Rajbonshi-- had called for the bandh against the non-inclusion of these communities in the scheduled tribe list.

The bandh started from 0500 hours and is likely to impact polling in the upper Assam districts tomorrow.

The communities have also given a boycott call for the polls and it could lead to low voter turnout in several places as the first phase have a sizeable population of the agitating communities. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has appealed the communities to withdraw their agitation to facilitate the participation of the people in the democratic process.

He said, ''The panchayat election gives people chance to participate in the democratic process right at the grass roots level. I appeal to the communities to help the people's participation.'' However, the agitating communities were in no mood of withdrawing either the bandh or the boycott call.

Meanwhile, nine sub-divisions in seven upper Assam districts will go to the polls tomorrow. More than 57 lakh voters will decide the fate of about 20,000 candidates.

The second phase of the election is scheduled for January four in middle Assam districts, third phase on January nine in lower Assam districts and in Darrang district, on January 24.

The counting, originally slated for January 12, will now be done after the January 24 polling.

UNI

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