Communal violence erupts in the BTC area of Assam
By A Correspondent
It has happened once again. This time it virtually came sans much of forewarning. Another episode of villages burning, houses being razed to the ground, lynching of people, thousands of panic-stricken people fleeing into relief camps to save their lives from rioters unfolded in Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) areas or the so called Bodo heartland in Assam affecting the same two communities - Bodos and religious minorities (Muslims) – like similar bouts of violence in the past.
Mindless violence has re-visited the BTC areas on several occasions in the recent past basically because of the age-old uneasy co-existence between the two communities. The current flare-up which is yet to be doused completely has taken a heavy toll of at least 53 lives including six killed in conflict with security forces, displaced over 3.92 lakhs people from both the communities whose villages have been burnt down by rioters taking advantage of grossly inadequate deployment of paramilitary and army personnel in the initial days of violence that broke down on July 21 last. It started in Kokrajhar district then spread to areas in Chirang and Baska districts within the BTC and parts of Dhubri district outside the BTC.
4 Lakh DISPLACED
The way the violence spread far and wide in no time, the administration was left groping for ways to contain it at least for the first couple of days and thousands of innocent panic-stricken men, women, and children from both the communities were driven out of their homes to take shelter in 270 relief camps spread over all the four districts.
|The current flare-up which is yet to be doused completely has taken a heavy toll of at least 53 lives including six killed in conflict with security forces, displaced over 3.92 lakhs people from both the communities whose villages have been burnt down by rioters|
The situation is sensitive in BTC areas where Bodos and the religious minority community hardly see eye-to-eye because of the perennial friction over land rights, political rights and economic rights, only a spark is required to trigger a raging inferno. This time that spark was stoked on July 19th when unidentified miscreants fired upon and seriously injured two youth leaders from the minority community at Magurmari under Kokrajhar police station. Founder president of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), Mohibul Islam and a former leader of All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU), Abdul Siddique Sheikh were seriously injured in the attack.
In a retaliatory attack, four former militants of the now disbanded Bodoland Liberation Tiger (BLT) –Pradip Bodo (32), Jonson Bodo (36), Nip Goyari (25) and Jamin Goyari (24) – were lynched by a mob at Joypur under Kokrajhar police station on the night of July 20th.
These two incidents sparked a series of attacks and counter - attacks in several parts of Kokrajhar district in the wee hours of July 21st and the situation spun out of control of the administration handicapped by a lack of adequate number of security forces at its disposal. Houses continued to be burnt and fleeing people poured into relief camps.
Train services between Assam and the rest of the country were totally disrupted for two days from the 24th of July as mobs attacked trains in various parts of the violence affected areas. A total of 10 trains were cancelled while 31 incoming and outgoing trains were rescheduled on those two days affecting over 20,000 passengers. Seventeen trains remained stranded in violence - hit areas. The New Delhi - Guwahati Rajdhani Express was attacked by miscreants near Gossaigaon at the Assam - West Bengal border damaging four coaches. The train had to be turned back and taken to Coochbehar Railway station in West Bengal. A skeletal railway service could be resumed only in the afternoon of July 26th after more forces were dispatched to the violence hit areas to provide security.
In addition to deployment of at least 44 companies of central paramilitary forces, 13 columns of the army (1300 personnel) were deployed in the three affected districts on the morning of the 25th of July to contain the violence that had spread far and wide. An additional seven columns of the army were deployed in Baksa district on July 27th to arrest the spread of the violence.
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