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- Toll mounts in BTAD killings, special forces requisitioned

People take shelter in a relief camp at Narayanguri in Baksa district on Saturday. Picture by Sumir Karmakar

Guwahati/Kokrajhar, May 3: The Tarun Gogoi government today decided to move the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the latest round of violence in the BTAD that has left 30 dead since Thursday.

The government, after a cabinet meeting chaired by Gogoi, also requested for deployment of CRPF’s Cobra (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) force to “effectively” deal with the situation in the affected areas as it was specialised in guerrilla warfare.

Along with curfew, shoot-at-sight orders have been clamped in the affected areas.

Additional director-general of police (law and order) A.P. Rout said 22 people — eight in Kokrajhar and 14 in Baksa — have so far been arrested in connection with the violence. He said investigation had revealed involvement of the Songbijit faction of the NDFB in the violence since Thursday in the two districts of Kokrajhar and Baksa districts.

After the cabinet meeting a tough-talking Gogoi said: “Anyone involved in the heinous and dastardly crimes would not be spared. The NIA investigation will help to unearth the truth behind the gory incidents.”

CMO sources said the move to engage the NIA was influenced by the agency’s unrestricted movement.

“It can even go to Bhutan to nab culprits, doesn’t have to seek permission all the time, something which delays probe,” one of them said.

Terming the incidents of violence, especially against children and women, as the “saddest moments of his life”, Gogoi owned moral responsibility for the loss of lives. He said the Centre had rushed in another 10 companies of CRPF in addition to the 10 companies already sent to the violence-hit areas. Gogoi had talks over phone with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this morning and was assured of all help to restore peace. The chief secretary, too, had video-conferencing with cabinet secretary to apprise him of the incidents that took place in the last two days.

Gogoi also said a group of ministers earlier constituted under senior minister Prithibi Majhi to look into relief, rehabilitation and bridging the gap between the communities after the Kokrajhar riots, would meet tomorrow to discuss the situation in the BTAD and take effective steps to bring back normalcy.

“Several ministers have gone there to take stock of the situation and instil confidence among the people,” Gogoi said while appealing to the media, especially the electronic media, to exercise restraint in beaming news about the violence.

The toll touched 30 (Kokrajhar eight and Baksa 22) with the recovery of eight more bodies from the Nonke Khagrabari area under Anandabazar police station in Baksa district this morning. A relief camp was set up at Gobordhona where about 500 villagers from both Narayanguri and Nonke Khagrabari are taking shelter.

Curfews were relaxed from noon to 4pm in Kokrajhar today.

Indefinite curfew had been clamped in three of the four districts of the BTAD — Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang.

In Baksa, angry villagers today gheraoed the forest range office at Basbari in Manas National Park demanding arrest of some forest officials alleging their involvement in the violence. FIRs were filed against them.

The protesters complained that their houses had been burnt down by militants and the government had failed to protect their lives and property, official sources said.

Police fired in the air when the mob armed with spears and sticks tried to set ablaze the forest range office.

The NDFB (S), in an audio message to a section of media, alleged a third party role behind the killings. The outfit blamed the role of the government for failing to ensure safety and security of the people in the BTAD areas.

NDFB secretary, information and publicity wing, N.E. Esara, while denying the outfit’s role in the killings, told the media that it was a political conspiracy hatched by the Assam government to trigger a confrontation between two victimised (Bodo and Muslim) communities for political gain and to divert attention from the rape and murder of Daya Basumatary, 17, by eight youths at Boldi in Chirang district on March 29.

In a statement Assam governor Janaki Ballav Patnaik said he was at a loss of words to condemn this most unfortunate killing of innocent people.

He also added that house-to-house searches should be made, all illegal arms and ammunition seized and the guilty be brought to book without delay.

People of Narayanguri village under Gobardhana police station in Baksa district have refused to perform janaza (the last rites) of 18 persons killed yesterday till Gogoi visits the area, assures security and takes action against the culprits.

Spokesman for Sanmilito Jonogosthiyo Oikyo Moncho, Zamser Ali, today said the situation in the area is very tense and if the chief minister does not visit the area to pacify the people, the situation may take an ugly turn.

The Moncho is a united platform of non-Bodo groups in the BTAD. Ali claimed that members and supporters of the BPF and its youth wing were involved in the carnage and demanded arrest of BPF leaders Pramila Rani Brahma and Biswajit Daimary for making provocative statements.

He further alleged that a section of former BLT members who are now associated with an NGO called Manas Maozigendri which is involved in wildlife protection in Manas National Park, is also involved in the killings.

The Assam Human Rights Commission today registered two suo motu cases in connection with the BTAD killings and issued notice to the state government to initiate an inquiry into the “genocidal and related incidents of violence”.

The rights panel said that the inquiry would have to be conducted by a high-level committee and the report had to be submitted to the commission within 45 days from the date of receipt of the notice. A group of eminent citizens under the banner of Guwahati Sanmilita Suraksha Mancha today organised a citizens’ meet at Guwahati Press Club. They appealed to all sections of the people to maintain peace and harmony and demanded seizure of all illegal arms in the BTAD and stated that these were political killings and not communal killings.

AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has demanded an inquiry by a sitting judge of the high court into the BTAD killings. He said a delegation of party leaders would meet Assam governor tomorrow and submit a memorandum seeking an impartial probe and adequate compensation for the victims. “A team of senior party leaders will also visit the violence-affected areas in Gossaigaon, Kokrajhar and Baksa tomorrow,” Mahanta said.


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