July 27: Chief minister Tarun Gogoi today ascribed the turmoil in the Bodo belt to the feeling of deprivation among all sections and prescribed economic development as the only cure.
He told reporters in Guwahati that there were more conflicts in Assam than in any other Indian state.
“There is conflict of interests everywhere because all the communities feel deprived, whether it is Ahom, Muttock, Moran, Scheduled Tribe or Muslims. It is because of this feeling (of deprivation) that such things happen. It is only through economic development that we can solve these problems,” he said.
Officially, 48 people had died in the riots till this evening, including six in conflict with security forces. Nearly four lakh people are now lodged in 270 relief camps.
Gogoi started by saying that incidents of violence had come down since yesterday and normalcy was around the corner. But he became perturbed when confronted with questions such as whether the administration was late in reacting, whether there was intelligence failure, whether he had been warned by Assam PCC vice-president Y.L. Karna about the impending disaster early this month.
The chief minister blamed a “third” force for spreading rumours, which resulted in more people flocking to relief camps than in the previous riots that had seen more devastation and deaths. He pointed out that 113, 198, 186, 98, 106 and 64 persons were killed in the riots of 1994, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2005 and 2008 respectively.
Blaming the BJP for giving a communal colour to the riots, he dismissed the demand for his resignation. “If I resign, there will be more chaos. I will tackle the situation boldly,” he said.
The chief minister denied the involvement of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the incidents. “It has been carried out by miscreants. Those who have suffered are Indian citizens. Both sides (Bodos and Muslims) have suffered. And my priority is to ensure proper relief and then their rehabilitation,” he said.
Gogoi was also emphatic about the rights of non-Bodos living in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) under the Bodo Accord signed on February 10, 2003. “They will continue to enjoy their rights, including that over land. Nobody can take away their land. Nobody will be deprived,” he said to allay fears of those who have fled the BTAD in the wake of the riots.
Asked about Bodos affected by the riots and living outside the BTAD, he added, “I will ensure that nobody is deprived and all are protected.”
Gogoi said he would request the Centre to keep a reserve paramilitary force in the state to tackle emergencies like the Kokrajhar riots which “flared up in no time”, so that valuable time is not wasted while requisitioning paramilitary forces.
He said this time, too, he had “moved the Centre immediately” but certain procedures led to the delay. “Moving forces from one state to another also takes time. Therefore, I will submit a proposal to keep a reserve force on standby here.”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi will visit the riot-affected districts tomorrow. This will be Singh’s second visit to the state this month.
Assam PCC general secretary Haren Das condemned the BJP and other forces out to malign the Tarun Gogoi government.
“Most of those expressing opinions about the BTAD trouble do not have a thorough understanding of the situation, about the hopes and aspirations of the communities and ethnic groups that make up Assam. AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh has presented the correct picture about the efforts of chief minister and recent happenings in Bodoland,” he said this evening.
As a hassled Dispur pulled out all stops to restore order, AIUDF legislator from Dhubri, Jahanuddin, was allegedly manhandled by Youth Congress activists at Jhagrarpar Middle English School relief camp on the outskirts of Dhubri town.
The activists alleged that the displaced persons were not being given proper relief. Youth Congress member Anibul Haque said the AIUDF legislator had not responded despite repeated pleas. “Now that we have managed food and medicines for 480 camp inmates, the MLA has come here today with two bags of rice and 20kg of dal to take political mileage,” he alleged.
Denying the charges, Jahanuddin alleged that some Youth Congress members were politicising his visit to the camps, to enquire about the wellbeing of the inmates. He said his party would raise this point before the Prime Minister.
In Baksa district, hoodlums torched three houses in Daodhara and Hatijan villages late last night. The houses belonged to Ratiram Kuzur, Gopal Goyary and Sukendra Brahma. Five houses were torched in Kathalguri village under Basugaon police station of Chirang district this afternoon.
The Baksa administration imposed night curfew but said the incidents were not related to the violence in the neighbouring districts. Army troops were move to the district today. The Kokrajhar administration lifted day curfew from 6am to 6pm while the Chirang administration lifted the curfew from noon to 4pm.
People were seen going to markets and shops.
There was high demand for vegetables, which were in short supply. Pontu Dey, secretary of Kokrajhar Merchant Association, said the shortage was due to breakdown of transport services, which had stemmed the supply from places like Bijni, Dhubri, Bilasipara, Barpeta and West Bengal. Daily wage earners, vegetable vendors and rickshaw-pullers were hard hit. “My family depends on whatever I earn by selling vegetables. The last six days have been really hard,” a woman vegetable vendor in Kokrajhar said.
In sharp contrast to Gogoi, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) deputy chief Kampa Borgoyary reiterated that “illegal Bengali-speaking migrants” were the root cause of violence in lower Assam districts. “They are destroying the fabric of the region but intellectuals and political parties fear to comment on the issue. The tribals have become a minority in their own land because of influx from Bangladesh. This is not only the problem of the three affected areas but of entire Assam and the Northeast. We wanted our land to be secure,” he said.
He appealed for early implementation of the Assam Accord, update of NRC and, like Gogoi, slammed AIUDF chief and Dhubri MP Badruddin Ajmal for holding Bodo leaders responsible for the violence. “We can also say he (Ajmal) is solely responsible for the violence. He is concerned only about the Muslims but 100 per cent of the Bodos have fled Dhubri because of insecurity.”
Borgoyary also came down heavily on organisations demanding scrapping of the BTC. He said if the BTC is wrong, the Constitution is also wrong. “BTC is an arrangement under the Sixth Schedule which guaranteed protection of tribals,” he said.
Ajmal today visited the Hapachera and Domkonamari relief camps in Bongaigaon district where nearly 3,000 displaced persons from Chirang district are taking shelter. He took stock of the situation in the relief camps and alleged that insufficient relief materials were supplied to the camps and there was no security in and around them.
The all-party team that had made a three-day stock-taking trip to the troubled Bodo belt, met the chief minister at his residence for nearly an hour this evening and apprised him of their findings. BPF legislators Chandan Brahma and Kamal Shing Narzary, who went with the team, were not present in the meeting.
Sources said the team, headed by deputy Speaker Bhimananda Tanti and comprising Congress, BPF BJP, AIUDF and AGP MLAs, has requested Gogoi to reshuffle the local administration as the latter has lost the confidence of the people. They requested posting of able and neutral officers to the BTAD; start of rehabilitation work within a week and direct monitoring of security issues from Dispur given the absence of faith in the local administration.