Gogoi says special security forces likely to be deployed in Assam

Guwahati (Assam): Assam’s Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said his government has asked for the deployment of special security forces as a confidence building measure.

Gogoi said this request to the central government has been made after 41 Muslims were gunned down over a period of three days by hardcore tribal militants who are against the presence of immigrants from Bangladesh.

Gogoi was speaking to media here after visiting violence hit Baksa and Kokrajhar Districts on Wednesday. He also met the family members of the victims who had been brutally killed.

“I had visited the two districts of Baksa and Kokrajhar, the total death toll is 39, Kokrajhar is at seven, and in Baksa, there are a little more. And, ten people are missing.

The national disaster force is working to rescue the missing people,” said Gogoi.

Police on Wednesday found six dead bodies floating in the river in Baksa district, where some of the attacks took place.

Bodo representatives have long argued many of the Muslims in their part of the state are illegal immigrants encroaching on ancestral lands. In 2012, clashes erupted in which dozens of people were killed and 400,000 fled their homes.

The unrest in the tea-growing state comes towards the end of a marathon election across India that has heightened ethnic and religious divisions and which the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks set to win.

Gogoi said that a special force will be raised for protection of people in the vulnerable violence-hit areas.

“There is some insecurity among people and I have deployed security forces to instil faith among the people,” said he.

Security forces found the bodies of nine people with bullet wounds on May 3, six of them women and children, the third day of violence that police have blamed on Bodo tribesmen attacking Muslim settlers as punishment for opposing their candidate in the election to the parliament.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on May 2,  and soldiers deployed in the affected parts of Assam, a remote state with a history of ethnic violence and armed groups, some fighting for greater autonomy and others for secession from India.

State police said the latest outbreak of violence seems to have been sparked by these local rivalries, with Bodo tribesmen attacking Muslim settlers as punishment for not supporting their parliamentary candidate in the election.

Several opinion polls have forecast the BJP will emerge with the biggest share of the 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs, although the party could fall short of a majority.

In addition to that violence, Assam has a history of sectarian strife and armed groups fighting for greater autonomy or secession from India.

Police had said they suspected militants from the Bodo tribe were behind the latest attacks late on Thursday into Friday in a region.

Meanwhile, election candidates, including front-runner Narendra Modi have called for tighter migration controls.

As per the reports in one of the incidents, eight people were killed by a group of suspected Bodo guerrillas and in another, three members of one family including two women were shot dead, and a baby was wounded.

Later on Friday, a group of militants carrying AK-47 assault rifles attacked an isolated village in the state’s Baksa district and open fired, killing 11 people, most of them women and children.

Voting was held over several days in Assam to help security forces handle violence from any of the separatist or tribal militant groups active in the state.

Polling in the Bodo region ended on April 24, in what residents say was a tight race between a Bodo and a non-tribal candidate, although results from the five-week national election are not due for another two weeks.

Bodo people are followers of the local Bathouist religion.

Modi, the prime-ministerial candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said last week that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the nearby state of West Bengal should have their “bags packed” in case he came to power, accusing the state government of being too soft.

The five-week general election has exacerbated friction over migration in Assam.

The communal clashes in Assam two years ago triggered violent protests by Muslims in cities elsewhere in India.

About 30,000 migrants from the northeast temporarily returned home after threats of reprisals by Muslims circulated by text message.

India’s staggered voting concludes on May 12 and results are due to be announced on May 16.

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Free Press Journal