ASTC slams 'barbaric behaviour' of protesters

GUWAHATI: As Wednesday's anti-eviction demonstration turned violent and Guwahati roads witnessed mayhem, unruly protestors burnt down three Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) buses as well, causing the department a loss of around Rs 1.5 crore. The corporation officials have slammed the "barbaric behaviour" of the protestors and asked the state government to institute an inquiry into the torching of the buses in order to avoid such incidents in future.

The protest, led by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) on Wednesday demanding land rights for people living in the hills in and around the city, took an ugly turn as protestors clashed with police and destroyed public property. ASTC suffered the maximum casualty for no fault of theirs. Three newly-supplied ASTC buses meant to ply in the city and its neighbouring areas that were parked along the GS Road bore the burnt of the raging crowd, which torched the vehicles.

"What happened yesterday was barbaric and unfortunate. We slam the inhuman activity of the protestors. If they were a part of a democratic movement, they should have behaved that way. By destroying public property, they have displayed their worst side," alleged State Transport Workers' Association general secretary Khurshid Alam, while addressing a press conference on Thursday.

He further said with a single bus costing more than Rs 48 lakh, the department incurred a loss of Rs 1.5 crore within a matter of hours. "How can people attack the vehicles that have been providing service to the people of the state for decades? What was ASTC's fault?" he asked.

He also added that ASTC has been facing such problems since its inception. "We are always at the receiving end. The department has suffered a loss of more than Rs 100 crore in such incidents till today. Two of our drivers lost their vision permanently and three employees suffered critical head injuries," he rued. The general secretary slammed the role of the police and the administration in the incident. "We hold the police and the administration responsible for the burning incident. They should have controlled the mob," he said.

He also held KMSS secretary Akhil Gogoi responsible for the incident. "If their leader Akhil Gogoi cannot control a mob of protestors, he should not lead such activities. What is the justification for destroying public property," Alam said. ASTC's Engineers' Association and Traffic Officials' Association also slammed the incident and rued at the loss of public property.