Silchar/Guwahati, April 4: The army was called out in North Cachar Hills district of Assam and asked to be on standby in nearby Cachar as the orgy of ethnic violence continued to torment tribal-inhabited villages and the body count mounted.
Alarmed by the worst ethnic flare-up in the state since the Bodo-Adivasi clashes in Lower Assam, the Assembly decided to send a peace mission to the affected areas tomorrow. Speaker Prithibi Majhi will lead the delegation.
Police officials in Silchar said panic-stricken Dimasas lynched a Kuki tribesman, mistaking him for a Hmar, in Diongmukh village of North Cachar Hills district. The district administration immediately called out the army to prevent a flare-up between the Dimasa and Kuki tribes.
The Dimasas have been restive since 21 people were massacred by suspected Hmar militants in Cachar district on Monday. Overall, 24 people have died and thousands displaced in clashes between the two tribes over the past week. Unofficial sources pegged the toll at 29.
Cachar deputy commissioner today announced ex gratia of Rs 5,000 each to the families of the victims. However, it was small consolation for the Dimasas, who continued to bear the brunt of the violence.
Sources said a group of armed Hmars set fire to two Dimasa-inhabited villages, Guwabari and Chilatacherra in the morning, forcing at least 75 villagers to take shelter in Udarbond town, about 10 km from Silchar.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi sent minister of state for home Rockybul Hussain to Silchar to take stock of the situation in the two districts. Senior police officials, led by director-general Hare Krishna Deka, are camping in the two districts to monitor the developments.
Home commissioner B.K. Gohain told The Telegraph in Guwahati tonight that the army’s “visible presence” in North Cachar Hills district was expected to calm the people.
The decision to send a delegation of legislators on a peace mission to the troubled area was taken after the chief minister backed a proposal made by BJP member Bimalangshu Roy during Zero Hour.
Bodoland Demand Legislature Party member Hemendra Nath Brahma supported the resolution and made a case for keeping strict vigil on the other hill district of Karbi Anglong. He said ethnic clashes could break out in Karbi Anglong if the administration took it easy.
Gogoi informed the Assembly that he had asked the minister of state for home and the DGP to personally monitor security arrangements in Cachar and the adjacent North Cachar Hills. He said about 1,000 people were sheltered in two refugee camps in Cachar district.
On the possibility of a backlash by the Dima Halam Daoga (DHD), Gogoi said his government had restrained the Dimasa militant group from retaliating. “We have asked the outfit to stick to the ground rules of the ceasefire and leave everything to the law-enforcing agencies.”
The DHD has threatened to call off the ceasefire if the government fails to protect the lives and property of the Dimasa people.
PCC president Pawan Singh Ghatowar and the AICC general secretary for Assam, Mohsina Kidwai, told a news conference that the clashes in North Cachar Hills and Cachar districts were the outcome of rivalry between militant outfits and not the Hmar and Dimasa communities.