Group clashes leave 32 people dead in Assam

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Guwahati, Oct 5 (UNI) At least 32 people were killed so far since violence broke out on Friday between two groups in three districts of north Assam, official sources said today.

As fighting continued between Bodo tribal people and the immigrants of Assam Udalguri, Darrang and Sonitpur districts, fresh violence also spread in Kamrup district, sources added.

A prelimary estimate said at least 2.5 lakh people have been displaced since violence erupted in the three districts of Assam.

The authorites have set up sixty relief camps to shelter some 56,000 affected people so far.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi blamed the Bodo militants for flaring up the violence.

State Government's spokesman and Health Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma said so far 32 people have died.

However, independent sources and eyewitnesses said 42 people were killed so far since the violence started on Friday.

Mr Gogoi admitted that situation had turned serious and blamed the administration for not being able to stop the violence.

''Situation has been brought under control. Ten companies of CRPF have taken the position in the affected areas and shoot-at-sight orders were given.

''We will fix the police officers if they do not take tough actions'' Mr Biswa Sarma told a news conference this evening.

Besides, incidents of police firings, arsons and torching of houses of rival groups were also reported.

Police said people from more than 220 villages had fled to escape violence despite stepped up patrolling by police and army.

''We are trying to bring the situation under control. We are meeting the leaders of various communities,'' said state Home Commisisoner Rajib Bora, who was camping at Mangaldoi.

Official sources said there were police firings at Dimakuchi, Tuizahr, Dhulla, Rowta and Batamari. Altogether 11 people were killed and more than 30 injured in the police firing.

Mr Gogoi warned that if the Bodo militants did not stop violence, the existing ceasefire agreement with the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) would be withdrawn.

The authorities were trying to contain violence with deployment of ten companies of troops and 20 companies of para-military forces in violence-prone districts of Assam.

Five towns between Mangldoi and Dhekiajuli were brought under shoot-at-sight areas after reports of arson and violence.

So far, about 65 relief camps had been set up to shelter displaced people.

Senior police official Abu Sufian, who had rushed to the spot after the Udalguri Superintendent of Police Bijay Kuligam was suspended for failing to stop violence, informed that violence had broken out at Bahakatpara area of Udalguri district affecting some 20,000 people there. Sources said the clashes and police firing claimed two lives there at Bhakatpur area. Violence also reported from Hugrijuli, Chapabari and Singribari near Dhekiajuli of Sonitpur district.

About 20,000 villagers were shifted to safer places with majority of them taking shelter at Mudoibari refugee camp. The violence had taken place at Tizahar area of Bhakatpara region where two died in police firing.

''We have asked the security forces to take all possible steps to stop the violence and help restore calm in the area,'' Mr Gogoi said.

State Health Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma was also camping in the area and claimed that situation was well under control.

The immediate provocation for the clashes was the attack on a group of Village Defence Party (VDP) volunteers on Friday by some miscreants.

The violence took an ugly turn when a convoy of three Bodo ministers - Chandan Brahma, Rihon Daimary and Prameela Rani Brahma- came under attack. ''The VDP members belonged to the tribal Bodo community and were attacked by members of a religious minority group and that sparked off the clashes,'' the official said.

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