A day after the authorities ordered forces to shoot rioters on sight, four people were killed in police firing as Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD) continued to burn in the wake of violent clashes between tribal Bodos and a religious minority group.
“The four were found indulging in violence and killed in three different parts of Kokrajhar district on Tuesday,” inspector general of police, BTAD, SN Singh told DNA. The toll now stands at 32. Official sources said 19 people had been killed in Kokrajhar district and nine in Chirang district in the clashes earlier.
Despite an indefinite curfew and shoot-on-sight orders, Tuesday saw rioters pelting stones at the Guwahati-bound Rajdhani Express, which led to disruption of train services and left nearly 25,000 passengers stranded. The Northeast Frontier Railway cancelled 12 trains to and from Assam and rescheduled 20 others. A number of trains were held up in West Bengal.
Hundreds of houses were burnt down in scores of villages in Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri districts. It was learnt that Meghalaya governor RS Mushahary’s native village was also burnt down.
The Centre said it has sent 4,000 paramilitary troopers to the affected districts. Prime minister Manmohan Singh and Union home minister P Chidambaram called up chief minister Tarun Gogoi to take stock of the situation. “The prime minister has asked the chief minister to do everything possible for relief and rehabilitation of the affected,” a source said.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has decided to send a four-member team to the state to ascertain the reasons for the clashes.
Gogoi refused to label the clashes as communal violence and said the situation was created by a few miscreants from both sides. “It will be dealt with firmly,” he said.
At least 500 villages have been affected. According to official figures, 55,000 people have taken shelter in 42 relief camps. Thousands have fled to other places in the state. Reports suggested that there was an acute shortage of food items, mainly baby food and drinking water, in the camps.
Director-general of police JN Choudhury said the situation was “very tense”. “We appeal to the people to not spread rumours. They should stay calm and cooperate with us,” he said.
Meanwhile, MP and president of Assam’s main opposition All-India United Democratic Front Badruddin Ajmal and Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Mahillary appealed to the government to deploy sufficient army personnel to the trouble-torn districts. An all-party team of the Assam assembly will visit Kokrajhar on Wednesday.
The clashes broke out when some people killed four former members of an erstwhile rebel group to avenge the attack on two former leaders of the All-Assam Minority Students’ Union.
(With inputs from agencies)