Assam hill districts witness record turnout

People queue up to cast their votes in Diphu, Karbi Anglong, on Saturday. PTI People queue up to cast their votes in Diphu, Karbi Anglong, on Saturday. (PTI)

First it was the photo identity card. And then it was the calling off of an indefinite bandh by two armed underground groups. Voter turnout in the Autonomous (ST) Lok Sabha constituency comprising Assam’s two trouble-prone hill districts — Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao — on Saturday touched a record figure, with the state CEO’s office putting it at above 75 per cent. The turnout in Silchar and Karimganj in southern Assam also recorded more than 75 per cent till last reports came in.

“That the indefinite bandh called by two militant groups was called off yesterday contributed the most, while people were also enthusiastic over having a photo identity card to carry to polling booths,” said Karbi Anglong Deputy Commissioner and constituency returning officer PK Buragohain. This is the first election in Assam when voters were given photo identity cards.

Polling parties were yet to return to the district headquarters, with Buragohain pointing out that some parties would reach back only Sunday morning after an overnight footmarch in the hilly terrain. People queued up since early morning holding photo identify cards, while security personnel were deployed in large numbers to tackle any eventuality across both Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao district. Both hill districts had witnessed a lot of violence in the past several years, with the recent violence in Karbi Anglong displacing over 8,000 people — both Rengma and Karbi tribals — in January this year.

“Our people, several thousands of whom were rendered homeless in the January violence, have mostly cast their votes today. The villages have been rebuilt and orchards have been replanted after those were destroyed in the violence,” said Arnold Rengma, a victim of the January violence, over the telephone from Safapani in Karbi Anglong.

In Silchar and Karimganj constituencies, where Kabindra Purakayastha (BJP) and Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya (Congress) are facing an uphill task to retain their seats, voter turnout had unofficially crossed the 80 per cent mark. “Final figures are being compiled while data are coming in from outlying polling centres,” said Khagen Medhi, information officer in the Assam CEO’s office.