At least 40 people have been killed and another 2 lakh have been displaced in communal riots between two communities in lower Assam since July 18. The army and paramilitary troops have been deployed in the riot-hit areas, as arson and rioting were fast spreading to unaffected areas and state police personnel were unable to quell it. The districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri are the worst affected till now.
Thirteen columns of Army were deployed in the four districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Dhubri and Bongaigaon yesterday evening. Troops on Wednesday staged flag marches and patrolled the riot-hit areas, most of which are under indefinite curfew. Jayanta Narayan Chowdhury, director general of Assam police, who visited Kokrajhar yesterday said the situation was “tensed” in Lower Assam. Around 2 lakh people have been displaced and are taking shelter at various relief camps in the four districts. According to reports, around 100 villages have been torched by rioters in the affected districts. Colonel S Phogat, defence spokesperson, of the Army said it had identified the sensitive and hyper-sensitive areas in the four districts and strong vigil would be kept on these areas. The communal clashes had its origin to shooting of two youths from a community suspected to be comprising of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by miscreants in Kokrajhar, the capital of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). The incident followed by rioting and arson in Kokrajhar and soon engulfed other areas of Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) and Dhubri district, a district in lower Assam sharing border with Bangladesh and having significant population from the Muslim community.
Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD), which comprises of four bodo-tribe-inhabited districts of Assam, viz.; Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri, and formed following the signing of the historic Bodo Accord in 2003, witnessed similar communal flare-up in 2008. There has always been a simmering tension in BTAD due to unabated influx of illegal Bangladeshis, which was posing a serious challenge to the demographic profile of the area, as it was doing to the whole of Assam.
BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary too had pointed his fingers at influx issue as the real reason behind communal flare-ups in BTAD. “Indigenous Muslims, with whom the Bodo people have been living in peace for ages, have informed us that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh were fuelling tension in the BTAD area and were instigating the present violence,” said Mohilary. With rioters stopping and attacking trains, train movement to and from Assam has been suspended, thus snapping road and rail link for the entire North Eastern Region. Several trains were stranded in West Bengal yesterday as few trains were attacked by rioters while passing through BTAD area.
Railway minister Mukul Roy spoke to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and discussed the issue of security to train passengers.