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Monday, October 6, 2008

Assam toll at 40, 1 lakh refugees

Victims of Violence
NEW DELHI: The death toll in communal violence in Assam touched 40. Over 1 lakh people shifted to relief camps. However, the Centre does not seem to have any complaints as far as the state government’s response is concerned.

The Union home ministry is in touch with the state government on a regular basis but does not yet feel the need for any advisory or written communication to Assam chief secretary seeking ‘concrete steps’ as in the case of Orissa and Karnataka.

Reports with the MHA lay down in detail the measures already put in place by the Tarun Gogoi government to control the communal clashes between Bodos and non-Bodo Muslims in Udalguri and Darrang districts.

These include requisitioning of the Army on October 3 followed by its proper deployment in the affected areas, stationing of Central para-military forces, instructions to the security forces to take action against violence makers and arsonists, sending senior administrative and police officials to monitor the ground situation, transfer of Udalguri district collector and suspension of its SP, locating police pickets in vulnerable areas and reaching political/community leaders to the affected districts as part of confidence-building measures and holding peace meetings to sort out communal tensions.

The view in the MHA is that with the state government already having taken the initiative in implementing the aforesaid measures, a Central advisory was not really necessary.

According to sources, the emphasis during the MHA’s communication with the state was to prevent the communal violence from spreading further, even as the larger issues like illegal immigration of Bangladeshis could be settled either through the due legal process or during the updating of the national register of citizens (NRC).

On the suggestion from the Opposition that the Assam violence was part of the Bodos’ backlash against illegal Bangladeshi settlers, officials suggested that there was a history of clashes between Bodos and tribals and also between Bodo and Assamese Muslims.

“Even if they have a problem with alleged Bangladeshi migrants, violence is not a solution...they have the option to either approach the Foreigners Act Tribunals or wait for them to be identified during the updating of national register of citizens,” a senior official said.

On the possible role of NDFB behind the clashes, the angle is still being looked into. However, with the attack on a police party involving firing from automatic guns, the suspicion of NDFB’s stoking the fires has only got stronger.

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