Assam burns, 32 dead, thousands homeless (Night Lead)

July 24th, 2012 - 10:26 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram Guwahati, July 24 (IANS) Sectarian strife raged in interior areas of Assam’s three districts Tuesday even as security personnel shot dead four miscreants, taking the death toll in the region to 32.

A worried Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi urged Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony to rush more paramilitary forces and troops to end the savagery.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi called up Gogoi to know the latest situation. An estimated 40,000 people have fled their homes looking for safer areas.

Many who lost their dear and near ones wept openly.

A total of 28 people have died in the violence in both Kokrajhar and Chirang districts since July 19 as mobs of Bodos, who are tribals, and the Bengali-speaking Muslims set upon each other.

On Tuesday, security forces gunned down four miscreants in Kokrajhar, pushing the death toll in the two districts to 32, authorities said.

Shoot-at-sight orders and an indefinite curfew have been imposed in the worst-hit Kokrajhar district. In Chirang, a night curfew has been clamped from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Miscreants continued to set fire to houses left vacant by thousands who have fled to safer areas. The fire brigade and security forces struggled to put down dozens of fires.

Inspector General of Police S.N. Singh told IANS that 19 people had been killed in Kokrajhar and nine in Chirang.

He said the situation in the region was tense, and added that additional security forces had arrived in the two districts. More forces were being sent, Singh said.

“Incidents of violence are taking place mainly in the interior areas of the districts. About 60 villages, mostly abandoned, were burnt by miscreants in the two districts,” said another official.

The violence has also spread to Dhubri district bordering Bangladesh. Police opened blank fire there Tuesday to contain unrest.

In Dhubri, curfew has been imposed in some “sensitive areas” including Gouripur, Golakganj, Bilasipara and Chapar.

The three districts - Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri - share a contiguous landscape. While Dhubri is bounded by Bangladesh in the south, Kokrajhar and Chirang border Bhutan.

More than 40,000 people have abandoned their homes and taken shelter in relief camps set up by the district administration.

According to official sources, the violence started July 19 after gunmen attacked two student leaders in Magurbari Thursday.

Following this, four former Bodo militants were shot dead.

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

Assam’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nilamoni Sen Deka and Revenue Minister Prithibi Majhi were deputed by Chief Minister Gogoi to visit the troubled spots.

Director General of Police Jayanta Narayan Choudhury reviewed the security scenario with police officials.

Railway officials said the running of several trains had been severely affected. All inbound and outbound trains were halted at various stations between Guwahati and Alipurduar.

This has left thousands of train passengers stranded in the state.

“While 20 trains have been rescheduled, 12 trains which were supposed to pass through the violence affected areas have been cancelled,” said a North Frontier Railway official.

Some miscreants attacked the Guwahati-bound Rajdhani Express at Gosaigaon Tuesday, forcing the authorities to take the train back to Alipurduar.

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