The ongoing ethnic clashes in Assam, which have left 41 people dead and displaced about 150,000 people, forced the Congress-led UPA government to go on a belated damage control mode today. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha, has decided to visit the state on Saturday. It is not just the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but also Congress’ MPs, who have lashed at the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government for allegedly being a mute spectator to the ethnic clashes. A group of Muslim MPs met Home Minister P Chidambaram today and urged the Centre to bring the situation under control.
A whole week after the violence escalated, Tarun Gogoi today visited Kokrajhar, the district most affected by the violence, and insisted that “Assam is not burning”.
A Congress MP, Rehman Khan, who was among those who met the Union home minister, said they had lost confidence in the state government.
Clashes between Bodos and Muslims, whom most believe are Bangladeshi immigrants, have been on, since two migrants were killed in early July. Last Friday, the killing of four Bodo youth triggered large scale violence in the region.
National Commission for Minorities Chairman Wajahat Habibullah told Business Standard, “The Commission has received several complaints about not just inaction of the state government but also deliberate wrong action on the part of the law enforcers.” He said the Commission was keeping an eye on the developments in the state, and it would be in a position to take action once the violence was brought under control.
Meanwhile, Congress general secretary in charge of Assam, Digvijay Singh, attempted to refute the parallels being drawn with the Gujarat riots. “What happened in Gujarat is different from that in Assam. In Gujarat, the administration was helping the rioters. It is not the case here. Tarun Gogoi and the whole administration tried to control the situation immediately,” said Singh.
As people continued to flee from the violence-hit districts, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today offered to help and give shelter to the refugees crossing over from adjoining Assam.
“The situation in Kokrajhar and other districts in Assam where the conflict is on is deplorable... Bengal will give shelter to the people coming from Assam in the wake of the conflict, ” said Banerjee.
The BJP has hit out at the Congress government’ laxity in handling the situation and cited the allegedly unchecked influx of illegal migrants into the state from Bangladesh as the root cause for the worsening law and order situation.
Ramen Deka, BJP Member of Parliament from Assam, said, “Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is handling the situation in a casual manner. Houses are burning, people are not secure. But the CM is not bothered. Timely action could have been taken in the matter but the state government failed to control the situation in time because of vote bank politics.”
“The state government is neither bothered to prepare the National Register of Citizens nor identify illegal migrants. Similar violence had taken place in 2008, but the state government remained silent,” Deka added.
The BJP had sent a team to the affected area. Vijay Goel, BJP general secretary who was a part of the team, said, “Out of 126 Assembly constituencies in Assam, minorities now influence the result in at least 56. We want the illegal immigrants to be identified and deported.”
Habibullah objected to this generalisation of the Muslims in the region to be construed as Bangladeshis. “After all, people forget that Muslims constitute 31 per cent of the population in Assam and is second only to Jammu and Kashmir.” He adds, “This tension between the two communities has occurred earlier, too, and we cannot let it persist; we need to find a long-term solution.”
To contain the violence in the area, 63 companies of the CRPF, 20 companies of the BSF and 1,300 soldiers of the Army have been deployed.
The entire North-East region was cut off for two days after trains were attacked in the violence. Rail services resumed on Wednesday.
Even as the situation showed some signs of inching towards normalcy, stray incidents of violence were reported from Kokrajhar district as well as Chirang, Dhubri and Baksa.