Fresh violence in Gossaigaon and Kokrajhar keeps Assam on tenterhooks
Police step up precautionary measures, say these are targeted killings aimed at creating panic
Violence has returned to haunt Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD), claiming three lives over the weekend. On Saturday, one person was shot dead at Badugaon in Gossaigaon while another farmer was hacked to death in Batlanmari in Kokrajhar. On Monday 12 November, a 35-year-old farmer from Bhumka Village in Gossaigaon sub-division, of Banglabari was shot dead. According to police, the victim was washing his jute harvest in the river when he was attacked with by unknown miscreants. The incident sent panic waves across area, which had been severely affected in the ethnic clashes that had erupted in the region in July-August.
As soon as the news of the farmer’s death spread on Monday, locals surrounded the Tulsibil Police outpost where the body had been kept. The irate mob pelted stones and in retaliation the police fired in the air, however, the locals managed to take the body away from the police station. Later in the day and still carrying the body, locals blocked the railway tracks and protested for over two hours at Aminkhata near Chautara railway station. This affected the train traffic on the busy route that links Guwahati with the rest of the country.
Meanwhile, a manhunt has been launched by Police to trace the shooter, according to sources at least 13 suspects have been apprehended so far. A special search team comprising of CRPF personnel and Assam Police commando force is conducting search operations in the area.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi held a high-level meeting to review the situation with the top Police and Home Department officials. As a precautionary measure, all educational institutions were closed in view of the restless situation in the area, the police said. “We cannot call this ethnic conflict, these are targeted killings, done to create panic as memories of the clashes are fresh in the minds of both communities. The situation is tense, but we have a huge presence of the forces in the area and will not allow the situation to turn into a full blown conflict like last time,” Assam DGP Jayanto Narayan Choudhury told TEHELKA.
Meanwhile, the Army has intensified its drive against illegal weapons and rebel outfits operating in Bodoland. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has also asked the administration to deal with the situation strictly.
The latest violence in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) comes at a time when most of the people displaced during the riots have returned home. Sources from Kokrajhar say that some people are once again seeking shelter in the relief camps while some are moving to other safer places. The Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF), a Congress ally in Assam, which controls the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and other Bodo political and civil society groups are asking for a nationality status check of the minority settlers as they fear most of them are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
According to Assam government sources, there are about 39,000 people still remain in the relief camps. The massive ethnic conflict in Lower Assam had left more a100 dead and over five lakh people displaced.
With inputs from SK Brahma in Kokrajhar.
Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.