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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ehtnic violence claims lives in Assam - shoot at sight orders issued

All is not well with Assam – Kokrajhar is burning, thousands of poor people are fleeing their houses and violence escalated.  Kokrajhar is  located along the bank of Gourang river in Bodoland Territorial Council, Assam.  Sad that the death toll in the ethnic violence is put at 32 by the Press as violence  escalated in more areas of western Assam with 11 fresh casualties in clashes and police firing, forcing the Centre to rush 1,500 more paramilitary personnel to control the unrest that has claimed 32 lives so far.

A concerned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and asked him to do “everything possible” to control the violence while promising Centre’s full cooperation.  Security forces in India's Assam state have been given "shoot on sight" orders amid violence that has claimed many lives.  The violence was reportedly  triggered by the firing on two student leaders who were critically injured – Mohibul Islam of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU) and Abdul Siddique Sheikh of All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) in Kokrajhar.  In a retaliatory attack, four former Bodo Liberation Tigers cadres were killed on Friday night in the district and this led to further attacks and counter-attacks resulting in the deaths.

There reportedly have been fierce fighting between indigenous tribespeople and Muslim settlers in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts. Tens of thousands of  people have fled their homes for relief camps. There have been tensions between indigenous groups and Muslim Bengali migrants to Assam for many years.  BBC reports that "The situation is very tense. Both Bodos and Muslims are setting fire to each other's homes. People are fleeing homes as rumours of rioting are spreading. The paramilitary forces have had to fire to control mobs in some areas, and the army has also been deployed,"

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has accepted full responsibility for failing to protect the people of both the Bodo and Muslim communities in Western Assam, but has ruled out any possibility of stepping down.  Earlier Gogoi accepted that he had failed to provide full protection to the people in the state, but said that he expected the situation to improve in another three to four days. Six Border Security Force companies are now in Assam and were scheduled to reach the Kokrajhar district for damage control. However troops are reportedly finding it hard to proceed due to heavy rainfall.  Troops already deployed in the restive areas have commenced flag marches in three of the worst affected districts in the Bodo territories.  The State government has set up 151 relief camps to facilitate the tens of thousands of people who are leaving their villages to escape violence.

Railway links between Assam and the rest of the country have been disrupted after local people threw stones at an express train travelling through the area, and damaged four coaches, reports say.  The communal violence in Assam has left some 25,000 train passengers stranded, the central and Assam governments have been urged to provide security so that train services can resume. A total of 37 trains have been halted at various states due to clashes between Bodo tribals and Bengali speaking Muslims.

Very sad that ethnic violence has taken lives of people, thousands rendered homeless and it would take years for the affected to get back to normalcy.  Sadly, the administration wakes up only when there is trouble and Government never cares to take appropriate measures to curb such measures.  There are places where Srilankan refugees live in base camps lacking even basic amenities and there are places where immigrants from across Burma and Bangladesh live with all facilities, including ration cards, have their power in electing representatives and threaten the natives who have been living in those places for ages.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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