Assam riot toll rises to 27; two ULFA ultras killed

Twenty more persons of the Bihari community were killed in violent incidents reported from the various parts of the state, bringing the death toll in the ongoing clash between the Assamese and Bihari communities to 27 this evening. According to reports received here late tonight from lower Assam, two Bihari persons were gunned down by suspected United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants in Nalbari, while three others were killed in Fakiragram. Six members of a Bihari family were meanwhile killed in Tingkhong in upper Assam. Indefinite curfew was clamped this afternoon in Tinsukia, also in Upper Assam, after it witnessed widespread clashes between the two communities. Police resorted to firing in the town to bring the situation under control. One person was killed in Tinsukia though it wasn't immediately clear if he had been killed in the police firing or was a victim of mob violence. The police, meanwhile, claimed to have killed two ULFA militants in Golakganj in the Dhubri district. According to the officer in charge of the Golakganj police station, an AK-56 assault rifle and two grenades were recovered from the scene of the encounter. Suspected ULFA militants had killed four truck drivers in Golakganj yesterday. Section 144 of the CrPC was, meanwhile, imposed in the Kamrup district, including Guwahati. At least 500 persons had been arrested across the state for indulging in violence till the filing of this report.

A new dimension to the riots was meanwhile added with reports of the ULFA having directed its cadres to "attack Hindi-speaking people" in Assam. The ULFA had earlier issued a quit notice to the "Hindi-speaking" population of the state. According to latest reports, groups of militants were being positioned to strike at non-locals in the state in various places.

Speaking to the media, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that while the state required 180 companies of the central security forces, it was having to make do with only 10, "despite earlier reminders to the central government". He, however, assured that the situation would be contained "in a few days".

Gogoi blamed the present crisis on the severe unemployment problem in the state. He also said that the present situation, which was sparked off initially with Assamese applicants physically preventing candidates who had come from Bihar to appear in the Grade IV selection examinations of the North-east Frontier Railway (NEFR) in Guwahati, was a result of a change of selection procedures by the central government. "The norm prior to this was to recruit Grade IV employees of the railways through the local employment exchanges," he said. "There would have been no trouble had the same norms been adhered to." According to Vipin Nanda, General Manager NEFR a change in the present selection procedure was, however, not possible "because the railways had to abide by instructions of the central government and the supreme court".

In another development, the Nagaland Government sent a fact finding team led by an Inspector General of Police to Bihar to enquire about the recent incidents of violence in Bihar where train passengers from the North-east were assaulted and women from the region molested. The team will submit a detailed report on its return to Nagaland. At least two women from the region are reported to have filed cases of rape in the recent violence in Bihar.

In Assam, reports of violence were received from the early hours today. Five members of a Bihari family were killed by an unidentified group in Tingkhong in upper Assam late last evening. Uma Kant Tiwari, a businessman, was the sole survivor of his family, with his wife, two minor daughters, a son, and a niece and nephew killed in the attack. In Dhola in the Tinsukia district three members of a Bihari family was hacked to death during the day. The dead in yesterday's Golakganj incident that occurred near the Chagolia check-gate on the Assam-West Bengal border have, meanwhile, been identified as Bapan Mandal of Nadia and Hafiz Ali of Siliguri, West Bengal, and Ashok Kumar of Darbhanga and Praful Rai of Vaishali, Bihar. Among the seven persons injured in the attack were Mohammad Hussain, Ashiq Anwar, Inamuddin, Swapan Sarkar, Piyabotol Ghosh, Ofiz Mandra and Mahavir Yadav. Of the injured four, who were stated to be in a serious condition, were shifted to Siliguri. The victims were watching the one-day cricket match yesterday when they were attacked by motorcycle borne militants.

A Bihari mob meanwhile today injured two Assamese students of Duliajan College, Ashim Dutta and Anjur Bora. Both were admitted to the Oil India hospital in Duliajan. In other reports, miscreants attacked a local liquor store in Duliajan and injured four of its employees. Mobs also burnt down more than 120 huts in a Bihari settlement in Dhemaji last night. Police resorted to firing to bring the situation under control. There were, however, no reports of causalities in the firing. In Namrup in Upper Assam, the daily bazar was torched by miscreants last night, while four Bihari persons were reportedly abducted in Pengeri where Assamese mobs attacked and injured 30 members of the Bihari community.

By Monalisa Gogoi in Guwahati, Ashiqure Rehman in Dhubri, and Dilip Sharma in Dimapur (newsfiledelhi@rediffmail.com)