TMC to challenge rural polls in Assam

The killing of five villagers in Bengal by suspected extremists in eastern Assam on 1 November apparently gave the Trinamool Congress an opportunity to challenge for the first time the panchayat elections in the state.

Rural elections are scheduled for January 2019.

Condolence meeting

West Bengal's Minister of Urban Development, Firhad Hakim, went to Guwahati on Monday to attend a meeting of condolences for the five people shot dead in the village of Bisonimukh-Kherbari. The state unit of the TMC had organized the meeting.

This was the second visit of TMC leaders to the state in one week. On November 5, a delegation of four of the party's legislators, including MP Derek O'Brien, went to Bisonimukh-Kherbari to defend the victims and provide assistance.

"Feeling insecure"

"It's not just Bengalis who do not feel safe in Assam under a BJP-led government. Other communities also feel threatened, "said Hakim, criticizing the slow progress of the investigation into the murders.

He also said the TMC would challenge the results of the panchayat polls, while the BJP's power ally, Asom Gana Parishad, wants to do it alone.

Leaders of the extremist faction of the Unified Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) also held Monday a "fraternity meeting" with Bengali intellectuals and activists from the state led by Pradip Sen Sharma.

After the November 1 massacre, the Assam government had arrested two ULFA leaders favorable to the talks – Mrinal Hazarika and Jiten Dutta – for their provocative statements.

"The situation is deteriorating"

"The situation in Assam is deteriorating due to a misunderstanding among the communities. A third party took the opportunity to create a violent split between Assamese and Bengalis in the state. We met to try to reduce the differences, "said Anup Chetia, leader of ULFA.

"Both groups agreed that the Center's decision to adopt the 2016 Citizenship (Amendment) Bill had put a strain on the cordial relations that both communities enjoyed," Chetia said.

"We can witness a deep plot behind attempts to divide the two communities," said Sen. Sharma.