New Delhi: The Assam Government resorted to media gag on Tuesday and blacked out two prominent English news channels — CNN-IBN and NDTV — for highlighting the lapses of the state authorities in controlling the clashes between locals and adivasis on Saturday, which left over a dozen people dead and at least 150 others injured.
The state government tried to justify its crackdown on media, saying a section of media, including language press and the national electronic media, were distorting facts about the adivasi violence in Guwahati on Saturday.
Assam Cabinet minister and government spokesperson Himanta Biswa Sharma said the manner in which the incidents were reported, particularly the stripping of an adivasi woman, gave a false impression about the state.
"From the news items, one would get the impression that Assam is anti-adivasi and anti-woman. But we want to make it clear
that it is totally wrong," the minister said.
He underscored the fact that all sections of the state had always supported the adivasis' demand for ST status and the incident with the woman was condemned by everybody.
Meanwhile, a 36-hour statewide bandh called by All Assam Adivasi Students Association turned violent on Tuesday when the tribals went on a rampage and beat up locals in Upper Assam. Incidents of violence have also been reported from other parts of the state. At least 11 people have been seriously injured in Tezpur district.
On Tuesday morning, 20,000 tribals took out a rally in Sonitpur and ransacked shops and beat up people on the road. Agency reports say one person was killed and two others were injured in the clashes. They also set a vehicle ablaze in Kokrajhar and damaged several buses.
The bandh has affected normal life in pockets around the tea gardens. The bandh has been called to protest against the torture of adivasis by locals during a rally in Guwahati on Saturday.
The Assam minister said distortion of facts by the media and attempts to project it as adivasis vs the rest of Assam clash could flare up tension. "The media should act in a more restrained manner," he said.
Sharma also criticized media reports which claimed that Guwahati Medical College and Hospital doctors and staff had 'hidden' victims' bodies of Saturday's clashes to substantiate the government's casualty figure of one person.
The minister said the government had checked up the missing people as published in newspapers and found them registered either in police station or hospital. "If we get any missing query, we will investigate. But the figure of the dead stands at one," he claimed.
The state government also claimed that it supports Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the adivasis. Addressing a joint press conference, State Cabinet ministers Prithvi Majhi and Ripun Bora said: "The state government totally supports the adivasis' demand for ST status. We have already recommended the case for all six communities and it is under consideration."
Referring to Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal's statement in Parliament on Monday, they said his comments
were reported only partially. The minister had meant that the then-government of 1965 had rejected the adivasis' demand for ST status.
The state government had sent the case of the six communities — tea tribes, Ahoms, Koch-Rajbonshis, Mottocks, Morans and Chutias — for ST status to the Centre latest in 2005 and the "recommendation has not been rejected, but was under consideration," they claimed.