3 more die in Assam; curfew in 14 towns, Death toll 41

Two Bihari persons and a two-year old child who were injured in the ongoing clashes between the Assamese and Bihari communities in the state succumbed to their injuries late last night in Bongaigaon. There was, however, no report of loss of lives from any part of the state in the past 20 hours or so till the filing of this report. With the deaths last night in Bongaigaon, the toll in the present clashes mounted to 41. Bihari passengers of the Brahmaputra mail was attacked in Gaghrapar in lower Assam last night, though the figures people injured in the incident were not available. Reports of three more Bihari persons being injured in Kakopathar under the Dhola police station in upper Assam late last evening also came in today, even as the state home ministry ordered that those who had been rendered homeless in the ongoing clashes should be accommodated in one relief camp per district to make way for more effective security arrangements. The state government has also announced an aid of Rs 1 lakh to the families of those killed and Rs 25,000 to the injured.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi also submitted a report to the Central government through the Governor, Ajay Sinha, on the overall situation in the state. Minister of state for home Rokibul Hussain was camping in Dibrugarh to oversee the arrangements for those affected, even as Union ministers CP Thakur and Chinmayanand Swami arrived in Guwahati to take stock of the situation. In Sapekhati, miscreants burnt down 10 huts of the Bihari community today. Army and paramilitary forces were patrolling the streets of Bongaigaon, Nagaon, Tinsukia, Sonitpur, Nalbari and Dhemaji, state home secretary Badal Mitra Majumder said. Night curfew was in force in 14 places in the state, including Duliajan, Khowang, Namrup, Tingkhong, Tengakhat, Moran, Tinsukia, Nalbari, Howley, Barpeta Road, Bhabanipur, Patacharkuchi, Pathsala and Sarthebari.

As a precautionary measure, the state government also banned pillion riding in the Guwahati metropolitan area, to prevent possible attacks by militants. Security had also tightened security along all the entry points into Assam after the recent attack on truck drivers at Golokganj in lower Assam, sources said. Six additional companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) and six CRPF companies arrived in the state today to help maintain law and order. Gogoi had since the beginning of the riots complained of a lack of security forces to control the situation.

Paresh Baruah warns state government: A prominent local daily meanwhile said that it had received a call from the self-styled commander in chief of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Paresh Baruah, warning the state government that the superintendent of police of the Dibrugarh district, SN Singh, be removed within 10 days from his post. Singh had, according to Baruah, remarked that "Killing one or two Assamese boys would set things in order (Eta duta oxomiya lora marile sob thik hoi jabo)". The ULFA had yesterday denied any involvement in the attacks on the Bihari community in the state.

Taking up the issue of Singh's alleged remarks, state ministers Pranati Phukan and Rameshwar Dhanowar today met Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and demanded his transfer. Sarbananda Sonowal of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) said that the Hindi-speaking Singh was a rashtrabirodhi (anti-national) element.

Nagaland Minister denies violence: The Nagaland Home Minister TM Lotha, denied reports of violence that are said to have occurred in Nagaland, according to reports received in Guwahati. In a telephonic interview, Lotha said that the fact-finding team who had been sent to Bihar to verify reports of the rape of a Naga girl in Jamalpur station would submit its report soon. He was aware of the victim now undergoing treatment in Mumbai, Lotha said.

More than 3,000 members of the Bihari community have fled Assam in the past five days, railway sources here said, even as reports of three more Bihari persons being killed in Doomdooma came in late this evening. Three other persons from the community were injured in Mukalmuwa, while an estimated 25 houses were burnt down in Panitola. Kokrajhar in lower Assam was also placed under curfew afternoon. Bihari settlements were torched near the Gauhati University campus. The situation in Guwahati meanwhile turned tense with rumours of five Assamese students being killed in Bihar on the Assam-bound Brahmaputra Mail doing the rounds. Shops in the city's busy RG Barooah Road area downed their shutters early fearing further violence. Railway authorities, however, failed to confirm the report till late this evening.

Curfew continued to be in place in the Upper Assam towns of Tinsukia, Namrup and Duliajan, and Nalbari in Lower Assam since last evening. Curfew was relaxed in Dibrugarh at 5 this morning. Security was, meanwhile tightened in the border areas of Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Kochbehar and Jalpaiguri after 150 trucks from Bihar returned from Baxirhat, near the Assam-West Bengal border with drivers fearing further attacks in Assam. Four truck drivers were gunned down and seven others were injured by suspected ULFA militants on November 18 in the Golakganj area of the Dhubri district in lower Assam. "We are investigating the incident and will not allow any such attacks," said Lazzaram Bisnoy, superintendent of police, Dhubri. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), for its part, denied any involvement in the Assamese-Bihari clashes, adding that it had no part to play in the Golakganj killings. A self-imposed embargo by truck drivers could result in a serious economic crisis in Assam, that is also the gateway to the entire North-east, barring Sikkim.

Speaking to a local daily, ULFA 'commander in chief' Paresh Baruah today said that cadres of the militant group was not involved in the attacks on the Bihari community. "The consequences would have been far greater had it been otherwise," he said. The ULFA chief also "warned the politicians of Assam against protecting the interests on the Hindi speaking population of Assam". Baruah's statement follows that of chief minister Tarun Gogoi, made yesterday, when he blamed the outfit for the violence in the state.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU), meanwhile, said that it will continue with its demand of 100 per cent job reservation for locals in the railways "in a peaceful manner". Just about all the political groups of the state, including the ruling Congress, the BJP, the CPI, and the CPM and regional organisations such as the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Purbanchalia Loka Parishad (PLP) have taken a similar stand in the matter