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Dispur no to arms for self-defence
Gogoi lends ear to concern

Bongaigaon, May 5: Dispur today turned down the demand to arm minorities in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) for self-defence in the face of strong opposition from Bodo and non-Bodo organisations.

“The government will not provide firearms to the violence-affected people in the BTAD,” chief minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters this afternoon, reacting to media reports.

He said the government would provide security to people in the vulnerable areas by increasing the number of police pickets and outposts, strengthening village defence parties, forming peace committees and taking up other security measures.

Assam forest minister Rakibul Hussain had yesterday assured villagers of Balapara-I in Kokrajhar district where eight persons were killed on Thursday night that he would speak to Gogoi about their demand for licensed arms for self-defence. He had also said 25 fixed pickets would be set up in the area and strict measures initiated against the killers.

Gogoi’s statement follows criticism by Bodo and non-Bodo organisations to any move, direct or indirect, to arm minorities in the BTAD as it would only compound the problem.

All Bodo Students’ Union president Pramod Boro said the move would be “suicidal”. He alleged that the state government had “adopted this tactic to turn the BTAD into a civil war zone to cover up its failure to contain violence in the area”.

“We demand an all-clear operation against the killers of the minority people, not arms from the government,” said Lafiqul Islam, general secretary of the All BTAD Minority Students’ Union.

The president of Chirang district unit of the All Assam Adivasi Students’ Association, Samarendra Kisku, said, “Legal or illegal arms harm the communities living in BTAD”.

The president of the BTAD unit of the All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union, Dimbeswar Upadhaya said, “We do not want arms, we want peace in the region”.

The president of the All Koch-Rajbongshi Students’ Union, Hiteswar Barman, said providing arms to civilians in the BTAD would invite more clashes.

The BJP said the move would lead to a civil war in the state. “To whom will the state government provide arms? Against whom will those arms be used? The state government is going to break a civil war in the state. It has failed to protect the people,” Bijoya Chakravarty, the party’s national vice-president, told reporters in Guwahati.

AGP leader Arun Sarma said it would be “a grave mistake” if arms were given to people.

AIUDF general secretary Aminul Islam said such a move would only lead to more clashes between communities. “The move only shows that Dispur is not sincere about maintenance of law and order and protection of people,” he added.

The Centre was also concerned about reports that the state government was considering issuing licensed weapons in the BTAD. “It will amount to encouraging strife. The ministry will write to the Assam chief secretary, seeking clarity on what the state proposes to do,” a senior official said.

The Centre’s role is, however, restricted to an advisory one as law and order is a state subject.

The state-level crisis management group in Assam, headed by chief secretary Jitesh Khosla, met today to review the arrangements and directed security personnel to launch an intensive drive for recovery of illegal weapons with the assistance of the army deployed in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts in particular and the BTAD in general.

Sources in the chief minister’s office said fixed police pickets have been set up in the affected areas of Baksa and Kokrajhar districts to instill a sense of security among the affected people and to deal with any further eventuality.


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