Assam's Bodo-Muslim clash toll rises to 44

Manmohan Singh to visit strife-torn state tomorrow

Assam's Bodo-Muslim clash toll rises to 44

Even as Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi slammed the media for its reportage on the violence in the state and insisted that the situation was “improving,” clashes between the Bodos and the Muslims continued on Thursday, taking the casualty count to 44.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit the strife-torn areas on Saturday.

While indefinite curfew and shoot-at-sight orders have been imposed in the worst-hit Kokrajhar district, Chirag and Dhubri districts have been placed under night curfew. Nearly two lakh people, rendered homeless, has sought refuge in the relief camps while 11 people are still missing.

The only silver lining is the resumption of train services after two days of complete disruption. Three special trains will ply between Guwahati and New Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore, to ferry stranded passengers. “The Rajdhani Express, North East Express and Kamrup Express left Guwahati on time this morning,” an official of the North East Frontier Railway said.

Kokrajhar district executive magistrate Bipul Saikia was injured in an attack by unidentified miscreants and his vehicle damaged on his way to a relief camp at Bhotgaon Kanchipara area of the district, said L R Bishnoi, IGP (law and order). Gogoi reiterated his claim that the situation was gradually improving with the deployment of more security personnel. “Assam is not burning,” he said. He criticised the media for portraying the state as “burning.”

“Assam has 28 districts and there is trouble in only four districts. Does this mean that the entire state is burning,” a visibly angry Gogoi said. “We hope that within two or three days it will be restored,” he said, adding that the curfew will be withdrawn in a phased manner.

“This is not an ethnic clash but an act by miscreants and stern measures will be taken to punish the guilty according to the law of the land,” he claimed after a review meeting with officials. He also met representatives of the All Bodo Students’ Union, the Bodoland Peoples’ Front and the  All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union. After arriving here, Gogoi held a closed-door meeting with the Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts authorities, police officials, Army and para-military officials.

Besides, the chief minister announced a compensation of Rs 6 lakh to the next of kin of those killed, home for those displaced and financial assistance and medical help for those injured.  The state will also bear the cost of education of the affected students, Gogoi said.

Joint Secretary in Union Ministry of Home Affairs Sambhu Singh and Special Secretary (Internal) Ajay Chadha visited Dhubri and reviewed the situation.

Assam govt draws flak

Meanwhile, the Congress government in the state drew flak from party MPs for the escalating violence. Congress MPs K Rahman Khan and Asrarul Haque joined other Muslim MPs to criticise the state government for its alleged failure to contain the violence.

“We have lost confidence in the state government and its ability to control the violence and that is why we have asked the Centre to intervene,” Khan said after leading a delegation of Muslim MPs to Home Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday. 

The delegation, which also included Tariq Anwar of the Nationalist Congress Party, requested the Home Minister to allow a team of Muslim MPs to visit the state and meet the affected people.

The Bharatiya Janata Party was also vocal in its criticism. The party criticised the Tarun Gogoi government for failing to respond to the situation promptly.

The Congress top brass, however, stood by Gogoi, who has led the party to victory in the state thrice, since 2001. “Communal riots took place in Gujarat under the nose of the chief minister in cities like Ahmedabad. In Assam, it was in rural areas where the administration had difficulty in reaching out due to the rains this time,” said Digvijay Singh, general secretary of the All India Congress Committee and in-charge of the party affairs in Assam.

He also criticised the BJP for deliberately invoking the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh to Assam.

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