Home minister P. Chidambaram interacts with riot-hit people at Bhutgaon relief camp in Kokrajhar district on Monday. (PTI)
July 30: Union home minister P. Chidambaram today said an elaborate security, relief and rehabilitation plan had been drawn up for the violence-hit districts of Assam, on a day three persons died in Dhubri relief camps in the absence of adequate medical care.
The minister, who is on a two-day visit to take stock of the situation in the aftermath of the violence in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts, said the government’s priority was to restore peace and harmony and provide relief and rehabilitation.
“The immediate task before us is to ensure that peace and harmony are restored, to look after the people, give them food, medicine, drinking water and gently persuade them to go back to their villages,” he said.
However, at least three inmates of relief camps in Dhubri district, including a newborn, will never return home.
Rofizuddin Mian, 32, died in Belpara JB School camp, Kamala Bewa, 72, died in Kamandanga High Madrasa camp and a baby delivered by Samia Bibi died in Superghat-Tillapara School today.
While Rofizuddin and Kamala were suffering from acute fever, the baby died because of delay in shifting the mother to Dhubri civil hospital, camp inmates alleged.
Chidambaram, who visited two relief camps at Titaguri High School and Bhutgaon in Kokrajhar district and another at Basugaon in Chirang district, said, “The purpose of my visit is to assess the situation on the ground, talk to the officers in the field, visit some of the villages that were affected and to know how the people are doing in relief camps.”
The home minister is scheduled to visit relief camps in Dhubri district tomorrow.
“I have spoken to the people in relief camps and they are anxious to go back to their villages but naturally they want to know if they will be secure. They also want to know how the government will rebuild their houses.”
He said he had assured them on behalf of Delhi and Dispur that their houses would be rebuilt and security provided in the villages.
Speaking to reporters in Guwahati in the evening, Chidambaram said the security plan, which will be implemented from tomorrow, was “doable” but did not divulge its details. The home minister said the trigger for the violence were the incidents of July 6 when two persons were killed and three injured at Antihara and of July 19 when two persons were shot at in Magurmari, both in Kokrajhar district.
“The conflagration spread very quickly. (There were) not enough police forces to contain it initially but no one expected it to spread so fast. One part of the BTAD (Udalguri and Baksa) is still peaceful. But every life lost is a cause for regret,” Chidambaram said in reply to whether there was intelligence failure.
He said the home ministry had no role in sending the army but the defence ministry acted as soon as the request was made. Earlier, during a presentation in Kokrajhar, Chidambaram is understood to have enquired about the “delay” in deployment of central security forces as alleged by chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
“What do you mean by the delay?” he is said to have asked. An official told him that the state government had sought additional central forces on July 20, but their actual deployment on the ground took several days.
Chidambaram said Assam was one of the most complex states in the country to govern with a number of tribes, people from other states and “illegal” migrants. “When conflicts erupt, it’s difficult to handle. It has to be handled with compassion and sensitivity. The problem has been contained and lessons have been learnt,” he added.
On whether land pressure triggered the violence, he said, “The BTC pact has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Land rights will be protected. It is our promise to send all those affected to their homes within the shortest possible time.”
On a query about illegal arms being used in the violence, the home minister admitted that there were arms in possession of some groups who had not joined the mainstream.
On illegal migrants from across the border, he said, “All other issues will be addressed in due course but right now it is about restoration of peace and harmony and sending back people to their villages.”
The inspector-general of Bodoland Territorial Areas District, S.N. Singh, told the home minister during the presentation in Kokrajhar that pent up resentment against the BTC administration was being seen as one of the triggers of the weeklong violence.
The minister himself witnessed the “resentment” earlier when he was greeted with shouts of “Hagrama Mohilary (BTC chief) murdabad” and the demand for dissolution of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) at the relief camp in Chirang district.
Sources in Chidambaram’s entourage told The Telegraph that the resentment appeared to stem from a feeling of “perceived or genuine” deprivation among the non-Bodos living in the BTAD areas and from the delay in providing relief to those affected by the violence. “The relief camp inmates appeared agitated and the minister assured them quick relief and rehabilitation,” one of them said.
The home minister said the situation had improved with no fresh violence in the past 72 hours. “There have been incidents over the last nine days which have caused grief and sadness. Altogether 57 lives have been lost but in the last 72 hours there have been no fresh incidents of violence and no fresh deaths.”
He appealed to the media to “cooperate with us and put out the true picture”.
Gogoi, who accompanied Chidambaram, said he now felt more confident about restoring normalcy with “first the Prime Minister and today the home minister assuring all help”. He said rumour mongering had created panic. As a result, hordes of people had fled their homes. The government has decided to post pickets within 15 days. “The Centre has given me all cooperation and I want the media’s cooperation as well. It is not time to blame each other,” he added.