The riot-torn western Assam began limping back to normal on Thursday largely because of intense patrolling by army personnel. No major violence between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims was reported from Korkrajhar and Chirang districts that saw six days of clashes between the two ethnic groups since July 20.
Officials said the last reports of violence came in on Wednesday night when one rioter died in police firing in Kokrajhar district and three persons were shot at by miscreants in Baksa district. Curfew was lifted for four hours in Kokrajhar town during the day. The weeklong violence has left 42 dead and thousands homeless. More than 150 people have been detained for rioting and at least 10 are reported missing. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha, is likely to tour the region on Saturday.
After visiting some of the violence-hit areas, chief minister Tarun Gogoi said, “The situation started improving on Wednesday. I hope it will be normal in two to three days. Trains have also started running.” He held separate meetings with Bodo and Muslim groups at Kokrajhar. All eight trains stranded in West Bengal moved into the state on Wednesday night.
Gogoi said the government would give a compensation of Rs 6 lakh to the next to kin of those killed in the violence. People who lost their houses would get the new ones under the Indira Awas Yojana. The government would also take care of the education of the victims’ children.
The CM asked the media not to show or telecast old pictures of riots that could trigger more violence. “Assam is not burning. There are disturbances only in three districts,” he said while referring to the use of headlines like “Assam is burning” by the media.
The shortage of food, water and medicines at relief camps has become a cause of worry for the government. Inmates of a camp at Bhotgaon in Kokrajhar district, where about 5,000 victims are lodged, attacked Kokrajhar circle officer and magistrate Bipul Saikia with sharp weapons when he reached there with relief materials there. “There were no security personnel with me when I visited the camp. Some of the inmates attacked me,” the officer said.
In Chirang district also, inmates of a camp attacked the convoy of an all-party delegation of MLAs, accusing the government of failing to send them enough relief materials. State agriculture minister Nilamani Sen Deka, who is overseeing relief operations in Kokrajhar, said, “We have sent adequate food and healthcare materials to all camps. Vehicles carrying relief materials have reached most of the camps because they are located in inaccessible areas.” A state home department official said, “There are 250 camps where about three lakh people have taken shelter.” A government source said the Union home ministry had taken exception to the belated use of the army.
Two other pilgrims on the vehicle who sustained minor injuries were discharged after first-aid.
This was second major accident involving Amarnath yatris in Jammu region this month.
15 pilgrims were killed when a SRTC bus bringing them back from the yatra had rolled down into a gorge near Ramban on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway on the night of July 14.