Silchar, April 6: A beleaguered Tarun Gogoi today made an impassioned appeal for restraint from the Hmar and Dimasa communities, engaged in the worst ethnic clashes in Assam since the Bodo-Adivasi riots, and asked those who had fled their villages to return home and start life afresh.
Addressing inmates of refugee camps at Hmarkhawlien and Dholai, Gogoi said his government would ensure their safety if they returned home. He announced Rs 1 lakh each in compensation to the families of the 23 Dimasa tribesmen who were slain by Hmar militants and promised to rehabilitate displaced members of both communities.
The chief minister, who was in Cachar for about five hours, said, “The riots were the fallout of misunderstanding between two tribes that have been living together as brothers for generations.”
He told the Hmar refugees in Hmarkhawlien, 30 km from here, that Dispur would depute an officer of the rank of additional deputy commissioner to oversee their rehabilitation. The officer would be a member of their tribe, he said.
The Hmar refugees raised slogans against veterinary minister G.C. Langthasa, who is from the Dimasa tribe, for allegedly not doing anything to protect them while they were being persecuted by Dimasa militants in the North Cachar Hills.
Gogoi later met Dimasa refugees from Checkercham and Meghnathal villages and assured them of help in rebuilding their houses, which were allegedly torched by Hmar villagers with the alleged support of the Hmar People’s Conference (Democratic).
While the chief minister was meeting refugees, the police unveiled a new security plan for Cachar district, whose proximity with the North Cachar Hills, Manipur and Mizoram has made it vulnerable to both militant activity and ethnic conflict.
Director-general of police H.K. Deka told The Telegraph that a platoon each of the India Reserve Battalion would be deployed at Checkercham.
, near which 23 Dimasa tribesmen were killed by Hmar militants on March 31, and Guabari-Lambabasti under Udarbond block.
Checkercham is in the plains of Sonai block, about 45 km south of Silchar town.
A unit of the 3rd Armed Police Battalion is already on its way to Cachar from Titabor in Upper Assam to bolster the district police force, which has been under scrutiny since the massacre on Mastul Hill came to light.
The police chief yesterday met senior officials of the army and paramilitary forces to form an “intelligence pool” and find ways to co-ordinate counter-insurgency operations in the district.
Though police and security forces claim to have a grip on the situation in Cachar and the adjacent North Cachar Hills, reports of ethnic violence continue to pour in.
Last night, a group of Dimasa youth pelted stones at the Cachar Express and ransacked some compartments of the Silchar-bound train near Mupa railway station. The group was apparently on the lookout for Hmar tribesmen to avenge the massacre last week.
In another incident, miscreants torched 15 houses belonging to members of the Kuki tribe, which has genealogical links with the Hmars, at Longmangtu village near Jatinga in the North Cachar Hills.