Tension in Assam, PM may visit Saturday, toll 41 (Lead)

July 26th, 2012 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Guwahati, July 26 (IANS) Tension prevailed in Assam’s Kokrajhar and Chirang districts Thursday even after security forces poured in following the death of 41 people in sectarian strife.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to visit Kokrajhar Saturday, officials said, amid reports that the clashes between Bodo tribals and the Bengali-speaking Muslims had spread to Baksa district.

The administration rushed more security forces to Baksa Thursday after gunmen fired on a group of people injuring three. Baksa district shares a contiguous landscape with Kokrajhar and Chirang districts.

Inspector General of Police G.P. Singh met people from all communities and student bodies in Baksa in a bid to prevent the trouble from spreading further.

Kokrajhar and Chirang remain the worst hit. Both districts have become a cauldron of communal tension since July 19.

Although there was no fresh violence in Chirang, police recovered a body Thursday, taking the death toll in the state to 41.

Of this, 21 people were killed in Kokrajhar and 16 in Chirang. Police also shot dead four people. Ten people are reported missing.

The Assam government said a total of 170,000 people were affected by the violence in the two districts. Thousands have fled their homes in sheer terror.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Thursday toured Kokrajhar and reviewed the law and order situation.

“The government was not prepared for such a situation,” he admitted. “However, the situation seems to have improved. We have deployed adequate forces.”

Gogoi announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs.6 lakh to the families of those killed in the violence and promised that all those who lost their houses would be rehabilitated.

Curfew was relaxed for four hours in the day. But it has been extended in both Kokrajhar and Chirang, where thousands are now living in makeshift refugee camps.

Locals appear to be feeling far from secure despite the deployment of security forces.

“The government is claiming improvement in law and order situation but curfew is on. They lift it only for a few hours. People are living in fear,” said Kamal Basumatary of Kajalgaon in Chirang district told IANS over phone.

Sixty-seven companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed in the areas. Some forces were also deployed in Dhubri, where violence had broken out but which is now calm.

Close to 4,000 troops have been deployed in the violence hit areas, an official said. The army Wednesday staged a flag march in Bodo territory.

Train services have resumed in Assam.

Trains that were stranded outside Assam at different stations reached Guwahati Wednesday night.

The North East Frontier Railway said that from Friday three special trains will run to Kolkata, New Delhi and Bangalore to clear the extra rush at Guwahati station.

Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Dhubri share a contiguous landscape. While Dhubri borders Bangladesh in the south, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Baksa border Bhutan.

According to official sources, the violence started July 19 after gunmen attacked two student leaders in Magurbari. Following this, four former Bodo militants were shot dead.

Both the communities then began attacking each other, accusing each other of orchestrating ethnic cleansing.

–Indo-Asian News Servicde

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