Two killed in Assam; violence continues

Two persons were killed in the state in the past 12 hours, even as the army conducted flag marches in Tinsukia and Duliajan in Upper Assam to bring under control the continuing violence between the Assamese and Bihari communities. Speaking to newspersons, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said here today that deputy commissioners, along with superintendents of police, would be held responsible and action taken against them should there be reports of further violence from the districts. The assurances from the chief minister notwithstanding, most quarters here were, however, of the view that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which had already used the issue to serve a quit notice to \\"Hindi speaking people\\" in the state a few days ago, could strike in Bihari-dominated areas on its \\"Pratibad Divas\\" held annually to protest against the Indian government on November 28. The outfit has been known to resort to acts of violence and arson on the day.

In Nagaland, which observed a bandh yesterday, the militant National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM (NSCN-IM) condemned the recent attacks on Naga train passengers in Bihar. The outfit however requested the people to remain calm.

In Tinsukia, which has a large Bihari population, a person from the community was today killed in an attack by an Assamese mob in Tiplai Colony. Four other persons from the community were injured in the attack. In another incident, a Bihari person died after he was thrown off a train at Komarbondha in the Chokiting area of Golaghat in Upper Assam. The condition of the four Assamese youth who was attacked by a Bihari mob yesterday at Margherita, also in Upper Assam, meanwhile continued to be critical. All four had been admitted at the Assam Medical College in Dibrugarh. There has also been no news yet of Rana Gogoi, an Assamese youth who was reported missing on November 15, and is believed to have been a victim of the ongoing clashes.

The Union railway ministry has, on the request of the Assam government, meanwhile, cancelled the remaining four papers of the Grade IV examination of the North East Frontier Railway (NEFR), headquartered here at Maligaon. The examination had sparked off the confrontation between the two communities on November 9, when Assamese candidates physically prevented their Bihari counterparts from taking the exam. North-eastern train passengers were later attacked in Bihar in retaliation.

An all party meeting attended by the Congress, CPI, CPM, BJP, the Purbanchalia Loka Parishad and the CPM in Guwahati has condemned the violence in the state. The meeting also decided to send a team to meet the prime minister in New Delhi, to impress upon him the need to reserve jobs in the NEFR for the unemployed from the region. The all party meet was attended by Bhumidhar Barman and Rupam Kurmi, members of the Gogoi ministry. In yet another meeting, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi requested the editors of local dailies to refrain from carrying unauthenticated news. The editors were of the view that jobs in the NEFR should be reserved for youth from the region.

Earlier, violence escalated between the Bihari and Assamese communities in the state during the 12-hour dawn to dusk statewide bandh called by the All-Assam Students on November 17. In Nagaland, the bandh on the same day was marked by protest rallies taken out by various organizations in Dimapur. There were, however, no reports of violence from any part of the state.

Assamese students were beaten up by members of the Bihari community in Margherita and Jorhat. In Guwahati, suspected members of the AASU burnt down 20 shops owned by Biharis at Ganeshguri, close to the state\\'s capital complex at Dispur. A Bihari reporter from a local daily was also beaten up in Guwahati. The Bihari community was also attacked in Barpeta, Barpathar and Abhayapuri in the state, while suspected AASU members, who held up the Brahmaputra Mail in Nagaon beat up Bihari passengers. AASU members resorted to a rail blockade in Rangia and Pathsala. In Guwahati, the motorcade of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who was returning from a poll campaign in Mizoram was stoned. In a separate incident, irate students pelted stones at the car of the general manager of the North East Frontier Railway (NEFR).

Simaluguri, which witnessed attacks against Biharis yesterday, was tense, sources said, with the kidnapping of Rana Gogoi being linked to the ongoing clash between the Assamese and Bihari communities in the state and other parts of the north-eastern region. Gogoi had allegedly been assaulted by Bihari personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), before he was reported missing. In Dibrugarh, areas such as Khalihamari and Chiring Sapori remained tensed though there were no reports of violence till the filing of this report.

The confrontation between the Bihari and the Assamese along with other north-eastern communities was sparked off with local candidates at the Grade IV examinations of the NEFR, preventing their counterparts from Bihar from taking the exams on November 9. The incident led to a spate of violence against north-eastern train passengers in Bihar.

BJP leaders, including Union minister for water resources, Bijoya Chakravarty, Rajen Gohain, member of Parliament, and Indramani Bora, state unit president of the party yeasterday despatched a fax to Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, demanding 100 per cent reservation for local candidates in the NEFR division, headquartered here at Maligaon. Advani had agreed to look into the matter and had also decided to send a central minister to the state to take stock of the situation, they later said. Chakravarty, who has been at the receiving end ever since violence erupted in the state, said she was not in a position to stem the violence. “I will resign if need be,” she said.

November 17 bandh in Assam was supported by a number of organizations, including the Mizo Students Union (MSU) in Aizawl that protested against molesting of a Mizo girl near Jamalpur in Bihar. Four other organizations, including the Sadou Assam Bihari Yuva Manch, had lent their support to today’s bandh in Assam.

By Monalisa Gogoi in Guwahati and Dilip Sarma in Dimapur (newsfiledelhi@sify.com)