Update: 2pm: Press Release: PM condemns Assam violence and appeals for calm
Update: 3pm: Assam CM Tarun Gogoi said that Assam Govt will seek NIA probe into this BTAD violence.
There seems to be no end to the bloodbath in Assam as nine more bodies have been found in Baksa district today, taking the total death toll to 42 in the last 36 hours. Nine more bodies were recovered in Baksa district in Assam on Saturday in the sectarian violence unleashed presumably by Bodo tribal militants.Tension has gripped the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) comprising Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri since Thursday after gunmen attacked immigrant Muslims after they allegedly voted for a non-Bodo candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The bodies of the victims, including six children and two women, were recovered from Khagrabari village adjacent to the Manas National Park, official sources said. Indefinite curfew has been clamped in Baska and Kokrajhar districts. Ten army columns have been deployed in the sensitive areas where a shoot-on-sight order has been issued. Hundreds of trucks and buses are stranded on national highways 31 following violence and curfew.
Officials in the affected districts said the attacks, presumably by Bodo tribal militants, has made Muslims and other minority groups flee their villages to safer locations. The administration in adjoining Dhubri district has opened up two relief camps, fearing a rerun of the 2012 communal clashes that took the lives of 108 people.
14 people in Baksa, 8 people in Kokrajhar has been arrested in connection with BTAD violence so far. A foremer Forest Ranger Amiyo Brahma and five other forest guard were also arrested in this connection. AP Raut, Assam Police’s additional director general (law and order), said 22 persons were arrested in the last 24 hours. “Five companies of CRPF have already arrived. Four more companies are on their way. Three companies have been deployed in Kokrajhar and rest would be deployed in Baksa,” Raut said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is keeping a close watch on the developments. He was briefed by National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon on the situation, PTI reported, quoting PMO sources as saying. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who cancelled his trip to Germany following the violence, appealed for peace. “We will provide Rs. 3 lakh as ex-gratia for the next of kin of each victim while the centre will pitch in with another Rs. 3 lakh,” he said.
The Assam Police suspect the anti-talks Sangbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB-S) was behind the attacks on several villages in western Assam’s Baksa and Kokrajhar districts. NDFB Songbijit faction has denied their involvement into Assam’s BTC killings through voice mail sent to media in Guwahati, blame Third force.
Assam Minister of state for Border Areas Development Siddique Ahmed has blamed Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), an alliance partner of Tarun Gogoi-led state government for the violence in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD). BPF Chief Hagrama Mohilary has, however, rubbished Ahmed’s claim and appealed to the people belonging to minority groups not to flee BTAD. “Such claims are baseless. We are busy in rescue operations as many have gone missing. We will provide protection to minority people,” said Mohilary. Opposition parties have sought immediate resignation of Chief Minister Gogoi, who is also in charge of the home ministry.
An umbrella group of 21 non-Bodo organisations has attributed the fresh violence to BPF legislator Pramila Rani Brahma’s view on April 30 that her party candidate (for Kokrajhar seat) and Assam minister Chandan Brahma could find it hard to win because Muslims did not vote for him. Violence had preceded polling in Kokrajhar on April 24. Muslims are a major constituent of this group that fielded Naba Kumar alias Hira Sarania, a former United Liberation Front of Asom rebel, as an independent candidate in Kokrajhar. Non-Bodos including other tribes have never won this seat despite constituting two-thirds of the population.
Statewide protest by AASU, AAMSU against BTAD violence reported in Assam.
More updates to follow in due course.