External and internal forces fueling the clashes, says CM
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has decided to request a CBI probe into the ethnic clashes in Lower Assam
Within hours of deciding to request the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe into the ethnic clashes in Lower Assam, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday 7 August acknowledged that some ‘external and internal forces’ are fueling the clashes and are trying to keep the Bodo heartland ‘burning.’
“Assam is like a volcano. It erupts frequently due to ethnic unrest,” said the chief minster, who has faced criticism for not reacting promptly to the clashes. “I have stated earlier as well that these clashes are not sporadic, there are some groups with vested interests behind it. It can be internal groups, it can be external, we need to find out. Thus I have referred it to the CBI,” Gogoi added. In past 72 hours, the Bodo areas and other parts of Lower Assam have witnessed an escalation of violence. At least eight people have died in Kokrajhar and Chirang district in last two days. Meanwhile, curfew has been reimposed in these two districts.
Four Muslim settlers were killed in Lower Assam districts, triggering protest by locals who blocked National Highway 31 in Beltoli on Kokrajhar-Dhubri border on Tuesday afternoon. The mob soon became violent and started pelting stones at the security forces and were about to torch few vehicles when the paramilitary forces open fire in air to disperse the crowd. A young boy was hit by bullet and has been admitted in hospital at the time of filing this report.
As per the state government reports, 73 people have died in the clashes that broke out on 21 July. Government has deployed 65 battalions of paramilitary forces in Assam to contain the violence that has left over four lakh homeless. The violence between Bodos and minorities has claimed 47 lives in Kokrajhar district, 17 in Chirang, four in Dhubri, besides five killed in police firing last month, Gogoi said at a press conference in Dispur on Tuesday. Three persons were killed and two were injured on 6 August night when some unknown persons opened fire in Ranibuli village of Kokrajhar. Police suspects that underground Bodo rebel groups could be behind the incident. The injured were taken to Guwahati Medical College and Hospital.
Indefinite curfew has been reimposed in Kokrajhar district while round-the-clock curfew continues in neighbouring Chirang district where one more body was found early Tuesday morning. The body was recovered from a field in Rajapara area, senior police officials said. The Army has conducted a series of flag marches Tuesday morning in Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri districts.
A five-year-old died at Chhatipur LP School relief camp in Chirang on Tuesday, allegedly due to lack of timely medical attention. Locals alleged that no doctors have visited the camp for the past two days and there is no supply of essential medicines. Fifteen people have died in the relief camps, half of them being children.
ULFA triggered blast kills one jawan in Lower Assam
The blast hit the Army convoy when it was on its way out of riot-hit Kokrajhar
While Lower Assam still grapples with the ethnic clashes between the Bodos and the Muslim settlers, a powerful blast on Tuesday morning in Goalpara district sent a fresh wave of horror in the area. The blast took place at a time when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram was in Dhubri district meeting the victims of the ethnic unrest.
A powerful IED blast was triggered by United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) rebel at Bamonghopa, about one km away from the Naranarayan Setu, a bridge over Brahmaputra that connects Goalpara with Bongaigaon district. At least one army jawan has been killed and six of them seriously injured in the blast that was detonated about 10.20 am when an Army convoy was moving from Kokrajhar to Agia in Goalpara district.
According to Army sources, the Army convoy was returning after duty in the violence affected areas when the incident occurred. The blast took place despite maximum security cover in Lower Assam due to Chidambaram’s presence.
Army sources further added that Army choppers were pressed into service and the critically injured jawans were airlifted from Goalpara to the Army Base Hospital in Basistha.
Meanwhile, hardliner faction of ULFA led by Commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, in a press statement, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier, there were intelligence inputs that ULFA may target security forces that are on the move in various riot-affected areas of Lower Assam.
“For us this is not a communal dispute, but like a family dispute, where two brothers fight with each other”
The ethnic clashes have cast a pall of gloom over Dotma where Bodos and Muslim settlers lived together
An hour’s drive on a rickety road from Kokrajhar leads to Dotma, the native of Upendranath Brahma, the man who first gave the call for a separate Bodoland in 1985. For decades, villages in the area have seen the Rajbongshis, Nepalis and Muslim settlers living in harmony with the Bodos, who form the majority of the population.
Antihara village near Dotma has been an insignia of bonhomie between the Bodos and the Muslim settlers. However, the clashes between the Bodos and the Muslim settlers that erupted last week changed it all. The trust and brotherhood got overshadowed by fear and anger when the clashes also gripped Antihara. The Muslims fled from Antihara while some of the Bodos also fled from neighbouring Naobhita and Moynaguri villages as their huts were gutted. The Bodos at Antihara are in grief of losing their Muslim friends and neighbours, who were once ‘like their own brothers.’
“We are sad as we have lost the uniqueness of our village. We have always maintained communal harmony. We had a peace committee where all the communities were involved. The Muslims have immensely supported us in maintaining peace. Even during the times of insurgency and other crisis situations, we were able to keep our village safe from the fire of ethnic strife but we failed this time, it pains me,” says Shankar Krishna Chandra Brahma, a school teacher in Antihara who took the initiative to form a peace committee in his village. Brahma teaches in Titliguri School, where most of the students were Muslims. He does not know if he will get to see his students again. “I am missing my students. This is the month of Ramzan, it should not have happened,” Brahma says, breaking into tears.
“When the clashes broke out, we held a peace meeting. Our Bodo villages were not attacked by local Muslims. Those who attacked our villages were all outsiders. The local Muslims had alerted us but they were helpless as they had the community pressure to allow Muslims from other areas. We were told that even live cartridges of automatic rifles were found in the Muslim houses,” says Brahma. People in Antihara complain that even though both the communities called the police for help, they were told that the police did not have adequate forces. TEHELKA heard similar statements in most of the villages where both the communities lived together.
Though the crop in Antihara is ready, it is unlikely that the Muslim farmers would return to harvest it. However, even the Bodos are not going to the fields fearing attacks by Muslims who they say had been crowding their village even since the clashes broke out.
The situation is grim in Barshijhara, a village adjacent to Antihara, where a kutcha road divides the Bodo and Muslim settlements. Bodos stay in Naobhita while Moynaguri was a Muslim cluster. One can find both Bodos and Muslim huts gutted during the clashes in Barshijhara. “That was Sattar bhai’s house. He was my friend and we grew up together in this locality. Gods know if he will ever come back,” says Pradip Basumatary, a resident of Naobhita.
A group of Bodo women with their children are inside a gutted Muslim house, trying to find the contact numbers of its residents. “For us this is not a communal dispute, but like a family dispute, where two brothers fight with each other. We are in immense grief. We helped them flee and later we also fled. When we returned, we found everything destroyed,” says Sumitra Basumatary of Naobhita.
The villagers demand police protection in the area to help the Muslims return and start life afresh.“We used to go to the market with Muslim women, exchange pleasantries. All is gone now. They have also suffered a lot. We wonder if things can be the same again after they return. They might turn hostile, may God forbid such a situation,” says Rupashi Brahma, while trying to console other women of Naobhita.
Assam violence a blot on the face of the nation: PM
Singh visits relief camps in Kokrajhar, announces Rs 300 crore special rehabilitation and development project
Photo: Ujjal Deb
Even as Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri districts of Lower Assam are limping back to normalcy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Kokrajhar to take stock of situation. The PM said that “the ethnic violence is a blot on the face of the nation” and assured the Bodo heartland that the Centre would probe into it and the guilty would not be spared. He declared Rs 300 crore special rehabilitation and development project. He also announced Rs 2 lakh from the National Disaster Relief Fund for the family members of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those seriously injured in the clashes. The state government has already declared a compensation of Rs 6 lakh for the families of those who have lost their lives.
“This is a very unfortunate incident. It is a blot on the face of the nation,” he told journalists while visiting a relief camp in Kokrajhar on Saturday 28 July. He was accompanied by the Governor of Assam JB Patnaik and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. Earlier in the day, he reached Guwahati in a special aircraft and flew to Kokrajhar in Army choppers but could not land at Kokrajhar due to a technical snag and had to return to Guwahati. However, he reached Kokrajhar an hour later and visited two relief camps, the other at Bhootgaon on the outskirts of Kokrajhar where he interacted with Muslim victims. According to government sources, at least 52 persons have died and many more injured in the clashes. Over three lakh people have been rendered homeless.
Singh also met people from the two communities, authorities from affected districts and the officials from security agencies to “chart a way to restore peace and trust deficit in the volatile region”. He assured that the Centre would work closely with the state government to find out the causes of the conflict. His assertion came amidst allegations of a political conspiracy behind the violence. “The ethnic conflict which occurred is unacceptable and must come to a stop. We are one people and one nation and we must live together as such. We must restore peace and calm throughout the area,” the PM added.
CM Gogoi on 27 July had blamed the Centre for not sending the Army on time to bring the situation under control. However, in a press conference on 28 July, he denied making such allegations.
CM Gogoi hits out at Centre as Lower Assam remains tense
People from both communities continue to shift to the relief camps, PM to visit Kokrajhar on 28 July
Chief Minsiter Tarun Gogoi, on Friday 27 July, blamed the Centre for being late in sending the Army to help the state and central forces control the situation in Lower Assam. Receiving flak from all quarters for his government’s failure to promptly react to the clashes in Lower Assam, Gogoi also lashed out at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), saying that, “We also had less Central forces in Lower Assam as some forces were earlier pulled out of Assam by MHA.” “As soon as we understood that the situation was spiralling out of control, we had requisitioned the Army on the very first day. But it took four-five days for the forces to reach the state," Gogoi told reporters in a press conference in state capital Dispur. He went ahead to claim that there was no ‘communication gap’ between Dispur and New Delhi and it was the Centre which ‘reacted late’.
Meanwhile, the Congress, on Thursday 26 July, set up a 10-member coordination committee to improve the workings of the state administration. The panel is headed by the chief minister and includes party leaders including state Congress chief Bhubaneswar Kalita, BK Handique and Santosh Mohan Deb. The coordination committee is expected to discuss and suggest ways to improve the workings of state administration. The Muslim MPs of Assam, including those from Congress, had earlier met Home Minister P Chidambaram and stated that ‘they have lost faith on the state government’.
The clashes between the Bodo tribals and the Muslim settlers in Kokrajhar and its adjoining Chirang and Dhubri districts in Lower Assam have left at least 48 dead and nearly 3 lakh people affected. While reports of a relief camp set afire and a woman being shot dead two days ago in Duramari village near Kokrajhar have been coming in, police is yet to confirm the reports. However, tension prevailed in Lower Assam on Friday even after security forces continued carrting out flag march in the volatile areas. Curfew was relaxed in Kokrajhar district between 8 am and 6 pm and between 9 am and 4 pm in Chirang district. While the situation remains tensed but under control in Chirang, sporadic cases of arson have been reported.
Meanwhile more people from both the Bodo and Muslim communities have rushed to the 203 relief camps set up in Lower Assam. Prime Minsiter Manmohan Singh, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, would visit Kokrajhar on Saturday 28 July to take stock of the situation.
“They put us at gun point and asked us to leave”
It was a run for life for most villagers at Bhatipara Kawnibhasa in Kokrajhar. A survivor recalls the horror
Photo: Ujjal Deb
It was a scorching afternoon in remote Bhatipara Kawnibhasa village in Kokrajhar district, no one had gone to their paddy fields, the young ones were held up indoors, the women were busy tying up essentials and livestock and the men were guarding all possible entry points to their village with sticks, machetes and daggers. The Muslim village, inhabited by over a thousand people, was sensing danger as they saw neighbouring villages burning.
Suddenly the village heard gun shots, and in no time a group of 30 men, most of them wearing Army fatigue, attacked the village and fired in the air. “They put us at gun point, and asked us to leave. Otherwise they would shoot, they warned,” recalls Nayan Ali (22), who fled for life. The entire village fled but for Atiwar Ali who was mercilessly killed by the attackers.
“As we fled from distance, we could see Atiwar being hacked. We could also recognise some of the attackers. They were rebels, the Bodo rebels, and they were a mixed group from BLT (Bodo Liberation Tigers) and NDFB (National Democratic Front of Bodoland)” Nayan adds. The entire village is now housed in a relief camp in Bidyapur of Bongaigaon district along with Muslim settlers of a few neighboring villages from Kokrajhar districts. Fear is writ large on their faces.
Two brothers – Nazirul Ali (4), and Rafikul Ali (6), also ran for their lives when they saw the rebels. After a while they realized that their parents weren’t not around. They stopped mid way, tried returning but couldn’t as their village was up in flames. They were weeping helplessly, trying to look for their parents but no one was in sight. Village elder Muntaz Ali (55), was leading his family in their escape ordeal. He noticed the hapless children. “I recognized them to be sons of Naushad Ali, but Naushad or his wife was not around. So I took them along and ran for life,” recalls Muntaz Ali.
Over the past four days there has been no news of the parents of the two kids, no one knows if they have been orphaned. The kids are traumatised. The relief camp inmates say there would be hundreds of such kids whose family members would be missing.
Inside the relief camps, misery reigns supreme. Almost 5000 people are camping in five class rooms of a school building. In the name of aid, the Assam government had sent in rice and pulses. There are at least 10 pregnant women in need of attention and no doctors or paramedics have come to visit them in the past four days. There is no source of water to drink. Despite the horrors the displaced still don’t want to go back to their villages for fear of being shot. Hence, sharing one toilet with a thousand others at the risk of contracting diseases seems like a better deal to them. The refugees, with their homes gutted, feel it’s because of Allah’s blessings that they are still breathing.
Death toll rises to 44, Gogoi visits Kokrajhar after a week, PM to follow
Although cases of arson have seen a dip, people still traumatised from the violence continue to flee their homes
Over 2 lakh people have been affected by the communal clashes, with at least 80,000 people living in 121 makeshift relief camps
Photo: UB Photos
The ethnic violence that has engulfed Lower Assam since last Friday 20 July, took a breather on Thursday as cases of arson saw a dip even though it witnessed a spike in death toll, which now stands at 44. Three districts in Lower Assam—Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri—survived six days of bloody clashes between the Bodo tribals and Muslim settler that have left at least 44 dead, and nearly 2 lakh people homeless.
It took almost a week since the violence erupted for Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to visit the trouble-torn areas. Gogoi on Thursday admitted that insufficient security forces resulted in escalating violence and that initially the state machinery failed to react to the clashes with promptness. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, would be visiting Kokrajhar on Saturday to take stock of situation.
On reaching Lower Assam by a chopper from Guwahati, Gogoi visited the affected areas before holding a review meeting at Kokrajhar Circuit House—the distirct has been the epicenter of the conflict. “I admit that there were insufficient security forces earlier in Lower Assam. In initial stage there were difficulties and both the civil and police administration could not take prompt action. Now the situation is under control, gradually it will improve. In two to three days normalcy will be restored,” Gogoi told reporters in Kokrajhar. Gogoi had come under heavy criticism for not visiting the violence affected areas while people were dying and fleeing their homes.
Meanwhile, the CM has also announced compensations of Rs 6 lakh to the families of the deceased. His government will also provide compensation to the injured and to the families whose properties were damaged, along with paying for the cost of rebuilding their houses that were damaged in the riots, Gogoi added.
When asked who he thinks is responsible for the violence, Gogoi ruled out the role of people from Bangladesh to enter and cause such ruckus as alleged by Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) Chief Hagrama Mohilary. The CM said that the riots were the handiwork of miscreants who want to create disturbance and misunderstanding between the two communities in BTC areas.
However, Gogoi suffered another setback when all the Muslim MPs from Assam including those from his own party met the PM and expressed their anger on the poor handling of the ground situation by the state government.
Meanwhile, thousands of people are still abandoning their homes in search of safer places as a sense of insecurity prevails over Lower Assam. Although 13 columns of Army continued their flag marches in the volatile areas, it wasn’t enough to convince the villagers to stay put. While cases of arson have come down, three persons sustained bullet injuries on Wednesday night when some unidentified miscreants opened fire in a remote village in Baksa district (close to Chirang distict) in Lower Assam.
Indefinite curfew continues to stay in place in the area even as rail services are slowly being restored to normalcy. Curfew was relaxed in Kokrajhar from 8 am to 12 noon and in Chirang from 12 pm - 4 pm on Thursday. An additional 15 companies of Central security force have reached Kokrajhar on Thursday and have been pressed into the interiors immediately.
Toll rises to 40, rail links partially reopened
MHA team visits violence-torn areas of Assam, survivors flee homes to relief camps devoid of basic amenities
After five days, many dead and thousands homeless, Assam still burns. Even after security forces have brought the situation under control in some areas of Kokrajhar district, fresh cases of clashes and arson have been reported from interiors of Chirang and Dhubri districts. Thirteen Army columns have moved in the three violence-hit districts even as a high level team of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reached Kokrajhar and took charge of operations.
The MHA has also got the blocked rail link reopened partially. The death toll has also seen a rise, with the Assam government sources putting the figure at 40. “We can confirm you 25 deaths in Kokrajhar district and 15 in Chirang district so far in violence apart from the four killed in police firing on Tuesday. The situation has improved a lot in Kokrajhar district, we have been able to send security forces to the interiors, in Chirang and Dhubri the situation is tense but under control,” SN Singh, IGP (Western Range) of Assam Police told Tehelka.
A high level team of MHA led by Joint Secretary Shambhu Singh reached Kokrajhar on Wednesday and took stock of situation. The team asked security forces to enter into the interiors of the districts and carry out area domination operation. The MHA team also held coordination parleys with Northeastern Frontier Railways and decided to partially open the blocked rail link between New Jaipaiguri in West Bengal and New Bongaigaon in lower Assam. Around 30,000 train passengers have been stranded in various stations without any basic facilities for about 72 hours after rail services were hit due to ethnic clashes in lower Assam that broke out on Friday, 20 July.
Around 25 trains were regulated and controlled at various stations and 25 other trains were cancelled originating from Guwahati in the past 48 hours, railway sources added. Even as this report is being filed, two key trains—the New Delhi-Guwahati Rajdhani Express and Poorvattar Samprak Kranti Express—have left for Guwahati from New Jaipaiguri under thick security cover. The MHA team has also asked the Railway Protection Force (RPF) in West Bengal Police and Assam Police to sanitise the entire rail route. “We have taken a stock of situation and Army has been called in, there is an improvement in the situation and we hope things will change for good within two days. But the mindset of people have to change, they will have to come out of fear, it will take some time for that,” said MHA’s Singh.
Several Assam ministers are also camping in different affected areas to start peace processes; they are trying to get local community leaders to build a consensus for peace. While a four-hour relaxation was given in the indefinite curfew that is on in Kokrajhar, shoot-at-sight orders have been extended to Chirang districts, which reported some fresh cases of clashes between the Bodo tribals and the Muslim settlers, who have been on a war path over the past six days. Indefinite curfew is also on in Chirang. After last night’s review meeting in state capital Dispur chaired by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the state government requested the Army to take charge of the operation through the Unified Command, which is in place in Assam.
Thirteen hundred Army personnel in 13 columns had moved into the three affected districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri on Wednesday and staged a flag march in phases. The MHA has already sanctioned 48 companies of Central paramilitary forces that have been present in the affected areas over the past three days, despite thousands of Bodos and Muslims fleeing their villages for lack of security. Nearly 50 villages of each community have been gutted completely. Over 2 lakh people have been affected by the communal clashes, with at least 80,000 people living in 121 makeshift relief camps.
On Wednesday thousands of Muslims fled towards Dhubri and West Bengal from Kokrajhar and Chirang district fearing backlash from the Bodos. Thousands of Bodos, on the other hand, are leaving Dhubri and Bongaigaon and entering Kokrajhar where the relief camps—housed in different government schools, community halls and offices. These camps lack basic facilities, even doctors are not seen visiting, complained locals. Although, rail service has resumed partially from Wednesday evening, stranded passengers are still living the nightmare.
At the Guwahati railway station, people are waiting without food. For many taking a flight out is also not an option since the airfare to all airports from Guwahati has doubled after the rail and road services took a hit. The ongoing ethnic crisis in Assam may also a witness a crisis of essential products and a sharp price rise as thousands of trucks remain stranded on the National Highway—no public vehicle is being allowed to ply beyond the Srirampur check gate on the Assam-Bengal border.
An all party delegation from the Assam legislative assembly on Wednesday toured the affected areas led by Bhimananda Tanti. They spoke to victims from both the communities and appealed to them to maintain peace. Meanwhile both Assam government and the Centre have ruled out any handiwork of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to have entered and sparked the clashes, as feared by the chief of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) Hagrama Mohilary. The opposition in Assam has come down heavily upon Gogoi for his failure to check the violence in its initial stages.
Kokrajhar remains volatile; unrest leaves 32 dead, renders 60,000 homeless
The situation remained tense on Tuesday with the government issuing shoot-at-sight orders
The situation in Assam’s Kokrajhar, where violent ethnic clashes broke out on Friday 20 July, seems to be deteriorating with reports of more people being killed trickling in. While nine people have died in Chirang district, latest reports confirm the death of four more persons in Kokrajhar on Tuesday 24 July, thus taking the death toll to 32. Four members of a violent mob were killed after the Assam Police fired upon it when it was on its way to burn a village in Kokrajhar, confirmed SN Singh, IGP (western range) at Kokrajhar.
The Bodo heartland remained tense and cases of arson were reported from surrounding areas on Tuesday after ethnic clashes between the Bodo tribals and the Muslim settlers in Kokrajhar and neighbouring Chirang and Dhubri district broke out. A reliable source in Assam home department said that more than 1.7 lakh people have been affected by the clashes. At least 60,000 people have been rendered homeless and 121 relief camps have been set up in the affected districts. An indefinite curfew continues its reign over Kokrajhar with a shoot-at-sight order in place. Rail link has been badly hit, as several trains remained halted in different stations and a dozen cancelled, leaving 25,000 passengers stranded.
The Guwahati bound Rajdhani Express coming from New Delhi was attacked by a mob near Kamakhyaguri after it crossed Coochbehar in West Bengal on Monday, a few kilometers from Assam’s border. The mob pelted stones at the train, hurting passengers in at least four coaches, and consequently the train had to be pulled back towards Coochbehar. The train was standing at Jorai station in West Bengal at the time of filing this report. Passengers complained that there was no security available on the train. Twenty trains originating from Guwahati have been affected, while at least 11 trains coming towards Guwahati from West Bengal and other parts of the country are stranded in various stations due to lack of security cover.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to ensure that the situation is brought under control as soon as possible. Eighteen companies of Central security forces have already been deployed; and Assam has asked New Delhi for more forces. The Army has also been pressed into service. Assam CM Gogoi spoke to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and the PM who called to take stock of the situation, which remains grim for the fourth consecutive day.
The atmosphere in Kokrajhar district remains volatile, with the government imposing shoot-at-sight orders to keep protesters away, most of the villages around the district headquarters have been left abandoned. Reports of arson are being reported from several abandoned villages, as people from Bodo community have moved to relief camps.
Reports of clashes and arson have come from the Gossaigaon sub division, the most affected area in Kokrajhar, after some Muslim villages were set on fire. Similar reports have been pouring in from Bijni and Chirang areas. Since Monday, tension has flared and fresh violence has been reported from Bilasipara.
CM Gogoi has sent his senior cabinet colleagues—Revenue Minister Prithvi Majhi, Agriculture Minister Nilamoni Sen Deka and Minorities Affairs Minsiter Siddique Ahmed to the Bodo heartland to assist the other ministers camping there to bring the situation under control. On Monday, Assam Forest Minister Rakibul Hussian, Transport Minister Chandan Brahma and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Nurjaman Sarkar had arrived and held discussions with leaders of both warring communities and the civil and police administration.
Under pressure from the Centre, Gogoi has now rushed in other top cabinet ministers, although the main opposition party, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) came down heavily on the CM for not touring the affected areas himself. The Dhubri MP and AIUDF supremo Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, who is travelling across the affected areas of Dhubri district, told reporters that “Gogoi administration has failed miserably to stop the violence from spreading to new areas, and thus Gogoi has to himself come and see the misfortune of the people”.
The Army is patrolling the National Highway that passes through the affected districts, along with moving several Army columns to various volatile areas of Kokrajhar district. A flag march was also carried out. “The situation is tense, but we have been able to take control of things. Cases of arson are happening and our forces are moving in as fast as possible. Reinforcement is reaching here and will be deployed. A section of people from both communities are spreading rumours and creating tension in the area,” said Assam DGP Jayanto Narayan Choudhury while talking to Tehelka over phone from Kokrajhar. The Assam government has opened as many as 75 relief camps in the affected region.
Meanwhile, the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) Chief Hagrama Mohilary on Tuesday pointed fingers at the Bodo rebel group National Democratic Front of Bodoland(NDFB) for flaring up tension. “Many Bodo people are saying that NDFB is involved. We request them to stay away from this and not to kill people from other communities. This will have adverse effect. There is a scene of ceasefire and the process will get derailed,” said the BTC chief. Hagrama also said that the administration has not been able to provide relief in all affected areas, suggesting that everyone should come forward and appealed people to maintain peace.
Assam Forest Minister Rakibul Hussain convened a meeting in Chirang with top BTC functionaries and members of Bodo and Minority students’ Union and community leaders. It was decided at the meet that consorted efforts will be taken to restore peace.
Kokrajhar situation remains tense, at least 17 dead
Hundreds have been injured and nearly 30,000 rendered homeless after clashes erupted between local tribals and immigrants
Lower Assam is simmering with ethnic tension as the situation turned worse with the recovery of two unidentified bodies on Monday 23 July from Gaurang river in Kokrajhar district, taking the toll to 19.
On Monday, the New Delhi bound Guwahati-New Delhi Rajdhani Express was stopped by protesters at Pratapkhat between Kokrajhar and Gossaigaon. As a result a few trains have been stopped at different locations. As per officials in the Northeast Frontier Railway, the Rajdhani Express has proceeded towards New Delhi, while Howrah bound Kamrup Express and New Delhi bound Northeast Express is stranded at New Bongaigaon Junction at the time of filing this report.
On 20 July, a land encroachment dispute sparked off clashes between some of the local tribals and immigrants in several places in Kokrakjar and adjoining Chirang and Bongaigaon districts, resulting in casualties. The situation turned grave with the incident of the firing at two student leaders Mohibul Islam of All Bodoland Minority Students' Union (ABMSU) and Abdul Siddique Sheikh of All Assam Minority Students' Union (AAMSU) in Kokrajhar, critically injuring both the students. Four former Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) rebels were also killed on Friday night in the district. After these attacks and counter attack between the communities is taking place. Hundreds have been injured in the clashes and as per government sources, nearly 30,000 people have been rendered homeless in Kokrajhar and Chirang.
In another incident, the police had to resort to blank firing in order to control a group of people supporting the bandh called by the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU). AAMSU had called for a bandh in protest against the attack on the immigrants. Indefinite curfew has been clamped in Kokrajhar district.
Bandh supporters created also created a ruckus in Golokgunj and Gauripur in neighbouring Dhudri district. “We do not want clashes to take place, and it is the state government that has to provide security. We have called for a bandh as a mark of protest. The cops have failed to arrest the perpetrators and are showing highhandedness on the agitated people,” said Sultam Alam, President of All Bodoland Minority Students' Union (ABMSU). Meanwhile the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) has urged Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to visit the affected areas and make arrangements for an adequate security. “Initially when the clashes broke out, the administration remained a silent spectator. They did not arrest the perpetrators, thus people lost trust in them. We urge the Chief Minister to immediately step in,” ABSU President Pramod Boro said.
“Situation has improved, combined forces of police, paramilitary and army has been deployed. We have been able to enter affected areas and are trying to calm down the situation. There are a lot of rumours about incidents of firing. Throughout the day cases of arson have been reported. We have to being the situation under control soon, as of now, it remains tensed” said SN Sigh, IGP (BTAD) of Assam Police.
Police sources informed that additional nine companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in the district while the Army was assisting in maintaining law and order.
Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.