Assam rights panel seeks probe in Sualkuchi firing

Guwahati, April 8 (IANS) The Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Monday directed the state government to conduct an inquiry into police action and firing at Sualkuchi that left seven people injured.

The AHRC had taken suo motu cognizance of the incident and issued notice to the chief secretary to have an officer not below the rank of additional chief secretary carry out an enquiry and submit a report to the commission within 30 days.

The commission had also taken a serious note that the security forces had gone berserk in controlling the protesters and let loose a reign of terror by indiscriminate bursting of tear gas shells, baton charge and firing in the most brutal manner resulting in injury to several people.

Assam’s “silk town” Sualkuchi, located about 30 km away from Assam’s main city Guwahati, witnessed violent clashes between a group of local weavers and security forces on March 30 after the former tried to set ablaze bales of Banarasi silk, imported to the area from Uttar Pradesh by some traders and wholesalers.

The seven injured included two policemen. Indefinite curfew has been imposed in and around Sualkuchi for next two days.

The local weavers had been alleging that a section of traders and wholesalers import the machine-made cloth made of Banarsi silk, which is cheaper than the local silk, and sell them in the name of Assam silk, thereby affecting the local industry. More than 25,000 people of Sualkuchi are engaged in the weaving industry which has an annual turnover of Rs.150 crore.

AHRC chief Justice (Retd) Aftab H. Saikia had also asked the chief secretary to find out the reasons why the government had not taken any remedial action in the past to stop import and sale of Banarsi silk in the name of Assam silk in the area despite being appraised of the situation by the locals long back.

The inquiry has also asked the government to furnish the details of the steps taken or proposed by the government to address the problem.

The state government had already ordered a judicial probe into the incident.

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