One shot dead in Assam; attacks on Biharis rise

A Bihari businessman, identified as Vijayraj Tatre, was shot dead by suspected ULFA militants, sources here said, while a worker in a tailor\\'s shop in Doomdooma in Upper Assam was injured in a grenade attack in what is believed to be part of the retaliatory strikes against the Bihari community in the state for the violence meted out recently to train passengers of the North-east in Bihar. Tatre\\'s son and the Bihari tailor also sustained injuries in the two attacks. In other incidents, some 20 Bihari youth were beaten up in Simaluguri in Upper Assam, while members of the community were attacked in Boko and Baihata Chariali in Lower Assam. In Naharkatia in Upper Assam, suspected members of the Asom Jatiyotabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) closed down the railway station at Naharkatia, and assaulted Bihari candidates who were on their way to attend the Grade IV examination of the North East Frontier Railway (NEFR). The law and order situation may worsen further tomorrow with the powerful All Assam Students\\' Union (AASU) calling for a 12-hour dawn to dusk bandh in the state.

The Grade IV exams of the NEFR, which sparked off the confrontation between the two communities on November 9, when local candidates prevented their counterparts from Bihar from taking the exams, were, meanwhile held without incident at the NEFR headquarters at Maligaon here, amidst tight security. About 2,000 candidates from Bihar who came to appear in the exam were, however, sent back by the state government yesterday in a step to prevent further flare-ups. Five additional coaches were added to the Kanchenjunga Express to send the candidates back to their state. \\"The NEFR had not informed us about the exams,\\" Assam Chief Secretary JP Rajkhowa said, \\"and hence we cannot take responsibility for these candidates.\\"

The Purbottar Hindustani Sanmilan, Purbottar Hindustani Yuva Samaj, the Uttar Pradesh Vikas Sangh, and the Sodou Asom Bihari Yuva Manch, along with the Sodou Asom Bhojpuri Yuva Chatra Parishad have lent their support to the AASU-sponsored bandh. The Bihari Yuva Manch of Guwahati had yesterday condemned the attacks in Bihar and blamed the Rabri Devi government for having failed to prevent the violence in her state. \\"The Bihar government did not take any precautions,” said Avinash Ray and Vaidyanath Sahani, president and general secretary respectively of the Manch.

Security tightened; Laloo apologises: Assam minister of state for home Rokibul Hussain has, meanwhile, said that the deputy commissioners and superintendents of police in the districts had been instructed to convene peace committees involving citizens, particularly the youth, to prevent attacks on the Bihari community. \\"Security has been stepped up to ensure the community\\'s safety,\\" he said.

The north-eastern region has a large Bihari population running into lakhs in most states in the region. Assam alone has a Bihari population of over 15 lakh. Many of them, who could now be targetted, are employed as daily labourers, rickshaw-pullers, vegetable vendors and the like. \\"After the attacks in Bihar, the Assamese will now kill us. We are very scared,\\" said Sadhu, a Bihari cobbler in Guwahati\\'s Noonmati area. Most such people have already stopped prying their trade on the streets of Guwahati. Head of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Laloo Prasad Yadav, in a telephone call to a local daily has meanwhile apologized to the people of Assam for the incidents in Bihar. He blamed the Shiv Sena for the attacks in Bihar. \\"The age-old amity between the Bihari community in the North-east and local peole should continue,\\" he said from Patna. Three persons had been arrested in connection with the attacks on north-eastern passengers in Bihar he said.

Militants issue Ultimatum: Laloo\\'s apologies notwithstanding, the attacks against the Bihari community in Assam following the violence against North-east train passengers--among them women who were molested and a Mizo girl, R Laladuhsaki being stripped and paraded near Jamalpur by Bihari mobs--was poised to spill over into the entire region with eight north-east militant outfits joining the fracas on November 15. A statement issued jointly by the All Tripura Tiger Force (AATTF), the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) of Tripura, Manipur People Liberation Front (MPLF), PREPAK, Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) of Manipur, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh Dragon Federation (APDF) of Arunachal Pradesh, and the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) of North Bengal, threatened the Bihari community with \\"far reaching consequences\\" if the attacks in Bihar did not stop immediately. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) had on November 14 issued a \\"quit notice\\" to all \\"Hindi speaking people\\", threatening \\"large scale retaliation\\" against the attacks in Bihar.

As reports of north-eastern trains being attacked in Bihar flowed in, mobs of Assamese students yesterday torched huts at a Bihari basti in the city\\'s Jalukbari area, close to the Gauhati University campus, while Bihari students were attacked by their classmates in leading colleges of the city, including Gauhati Commerce College, the premier Cotton College in the Pan Bazar area, and B Barooah College. Tension in the city grew further with unconfirmed reports of the killing of a Manipuri student and the rape of an Assamese girl doing the rounds. The situation could get further complicated with the likelihood of the Guwahati-based Naga, Bodo and Manipuri students\\' unions getting involved in the issue increasing.

\\"If the Central government and Railways fail provide security to Assamese passengers, no central minister should come to Assam or hope to return safely,\\" said Samujjal Bhattacharjee, adviser to the AASU. Political parties, including the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Purbanchalia Loka Parishad (PLP) and the Students\\' Federation of India (SFI) condemned the attacks in Bihar. \\"If the people of Assam take up guns for their protection, the Centre will be blamed for it,\\" said Dilip Saikia of the AGP. Added Bhattacharjee: \\"It\\'s is within Assam\\'s rights to ask for what it has. We are only demanding that Assamese people be appointed in the third and fourth category of the railways in this region.\\" NEFR at present includes a portion of West Bengal and Bihar. The AASU has demanded that the regions be delinked through legislation, to make way for jobs for local youth in the railway division. Referring to the stand taken by the Congress, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that that his party had from the beginning demanded 100 per cent reservation for local youth in the railway division.

Nagaland: Rio contacts Rabri; NSF threatens retaliation: Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphu Rio here said that he had taken took up the case of the alleged rape of a girl from Nagaland in Jamalpur station with Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi. “We are taking up the case with the Bihar Government and there should be no apprehension relating regarding the incident,” Rio said. While the Bihar government said that the case had been \\"misreported\\" by the media, the Naga Students\\' Federation (NSF), along with NGOs from the state, expressed their anger over the incident. “We will not tolerate such incidents and demand immediate action against all perpetrators, failing which the NSF shall not be responsible for any consequences,” a release issued by the Federation stated yesterday. “This is an insult to all Nagas,\\" said a spokesperson of the NSF. The Federation also condemned the attack on coach Khriehutuo, who was travelling in a Guwahati-Dadar express with a girls\\' team of Naga athletes. Chief Minister Rio, on behalf of the North East People\\'s Forum, a conglomeration of political parties in the North-east, including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has appealed to the people of Nagaland to maintain peace in the state. A meeting attended by the Naga Council, Gaon Burha (Village Chiefs) Union, Naga Women Hoho and the assistant deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of Dimapur, also appealed to the public to maintain peace \\"as details of the incidents were unconfirmed\\".

\\"Railway security tightened\\": NEFR chief public relations officer, Lina Sharmah, has meanwhile said that security has been tightened and control rooms had been set up in the Katihar, New Jalpaiguri, Guwahati, and New Bongaigaon railway stations. \\"If any train is attacked the driver can contact the control room for help,\\" said Sharmah. NEFR\\'s \\"security arrangements\\", quite expectedly, don\\'t seem to have cut much ice with the local population, with victims of attacks reaching Guwahati. \\"The attackers were encouraged by people who seemed to be local political leaders,\\" said Diganta Buragohain of the Khanapara Homoeopathic College. \\"In our case, the attack, which took place at Ratanpur, lasted for three hours,\\" said Buragohain, who was traveling on a Guwahati-bound Dadar Express. The worsening situation has led to a rush of passengers at the Guwahati railway station wanting to cancel their tickets. Trains from Assam have to invariably pass through Bihar, where more such attacks were expected.

The NEFR board recruitment examinations for about 2,750 Grade IV posts initially ran into trouble with the AASU and the Asom Jatiyotabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) alleging that most of the candidates invited for interviews were from Bihar. This was followed by local candidates attempting to physically prevent Bihari candidates from taking the exam.

By Monalisa Gogoi in Guwahati and Dilip Sharma in Dimapur (
November 16, 2003