48-hr curfew in North Cachar - Sporadic clashes in strife-torn district

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Silchar
  • Published 9.04.03
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Silchar, April 9: A 48-hour curfew was today clamped in North Cachar Hills district of Assam following sporadic clashes during a 12-hour bandh called by the All-Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU) in protest against the massacre by Hmar militants on March 31.

District magistrate Syed Iftiqar Hussain described the curfew, which took effect at 1 pm, as “a precautionary step to prevent breach of peace and tranquillity”.

Official sources in Haflong, the district headquarters, said they had received reports of Dimasas torching 20 Hmar huts in Retzawl, Mahur and Umrangshu. It is not known if there were any casualties in the incidents.

The army later arrested five Dimasa tribesmen for setting fire to houses near Mahur.

One person was injured in group clashes in the same area. Unconfirmed reports said two persons died in clashes near Umrangshu.

Security forces, including army teams, are patrolling the violence-prone areas to prevent reprisal by the Hmar community, whose population in the district is 12,000.

The bandh, called by the ADSU, affected life throughout North Cachar Hills, but its impact was minimal in the Dimasa-inhabited areas of adjoining Cachar, Nagaon and Karbi Anglong districts. In Cachar, only Dimasa-inhabited areas of Joypur, Udarbond and Borkhola blocks were affected by the bandh.

Dimasa activists picketed in front of the offices of the Cachar deputy commissioner, the inspector of schools and the district agriculture officer. The police arrested 35 of the protesters when they tried to disrupt work in these offices.

An army official said Haflong and Cachar district were calm, but tension continues to grip the interior areas of North Cachar Hills.

The administration is trying to persuade the Hmar refugees staying in relief camps at Markhawlien to return to their villages in North Cachar Hills district.

Nearly 40 such families today left under police escort. As many as 523 Dimasa refugees who had deserted their homes in Cachar’s Thaligram area were sent back yesterday.

On Sunday, chief minister Tarun Gogoi made an impassioned appeal for restraint from the Hmar and Dimasa communities 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 24 Dimasa tribesmen who were slain by Hmar militants.