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Demand to seize illegal weapons

- Minorities panel seeks fast-track courts for BTAD cases

May 12: A number of student organisations and NGOs in Kokrajhar today joined hands in protest against the continued violence in Bodoland Territorial Areas District, while the National Commission for Minorities suggested Dispur set up fast-track courts for quick disposal of the violence-related cases in the area.

Hundreds of activists from various organisations — including the All-Bodo Students Union, All-Assam Students Union, All-Rabha Students Union — students from educational institutions and members of various NGOs and civil society groups staged a three-hour demonstration at Raasmela ground in Kokrajhar today.

The protesters demanded seizure of illegal arms, security for every citizen in the BTAD and punishment for the culprits involved in the Narayanguri and Balapara killings.

Inspector-general of police S.N. Singh told The Telegraph that the toll has gone up to 46 (Baksa 39 and Kokrajhar seven) and the number of those arrested to 30.

“There has been no fresh incident of violence since May 2. Five NDFB (S) cadres have surrendered today, four in Dhemaji and one in Baksa. We have also seen the recovery of five arms and 45 rounds of live ammunition,” Singh said.

The Kokrajhar unit of Absu organised the demonstration in Kokrajhar today.

The president of the unit, Lawrence Islary, said its demand for seizure of illegal arms from BTAD is a long-pending one. However, the state government has turned a deaf ear so far.

The president of the district unit of AASU, Nabojit Ray, said more than 150 persons have been killed in the spurt of violence between 2005 and 2010. He, too, demanded the seizure of illegal arms in the state.

Ray added that development had taken a back seat because of the continuous violence in the region and urged everyone to shun the path of violence and work for all-round development of the region.

Absu president Promod Boro said the killing and violence has affected the spirit of unity and understanding among the communities living in the area.

Boro said the union has been demanding a solution to the problems of militancy and illegal arms for a long time now.

However, the government had not heeded its demands.

He said 83 innocent lives had been lost in 2008, over 46 in 2009 and more than a dozen in 2010 and 2011.

“In the last three decades, we have seen many conflicts in the state that have been parts of political game plans, but none of the cases have been taken seriously,” he said.

Minority panel

The National Commission for Minorities also suggested today that the state government should set up fast-track courts for speedy disposal of cases, appreciating the state government’s efforts to bring back normalcy to the conflict-hit areas.

The Assam unit of the CPM had also demanded fast track courts.

A five-member team of the commission, headed by its chairman Naseem Ahmad, met Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today to discuss the BTAD situation.

The commission pointed out the need for more police pickets in the vulnerable areas.

Gogoi responded that the government had already decided to establish more police stations, pickets or outposts in those areas.

It also underscored the need for confidence-building measures to help bring back normalcy.

The issues of rehabilitation of orphaned children, education of children in the affected areas, special psychological counselling to help the victims to emerge from their trauma and NCC training for schoolchildren also figured prominently in the discussions.

A source said members of the commission and representatives of the state government were unanimous in the opinion that civil society has a major role to play in restoring peace and normalcy.

They also agreed on the necessity of better co-ordination with neighbouring countries like Bhutan to tackle insurgency-related issues and to take up the matter with the Centre.

The other members of the team were T.N. Shanoo, Farida Abdulla Khan, Praveen Davar and the secretary of the commission, Surajit Choudhury.

The state government was represented by chief secretary Jitesh Khosla, principal secretaries to the chief minister, M.G.V.K. Bhanu and Jishnu Barua, commissioner and secretary of home department G.D. Tripathi and commissioner and secretary of minorities welfare and development B.R. Samal.

Trinamul claim

The state unit of Trinamul today claimed that over 30,000 people from the BTAD have fled to Bengal since violence erupted.

“They have been living in camps in the Basirhat area,” said the general secretary of Assam TMC, Kailash Sarma.