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Assam terror triggers exodus

Four more killed, over 100 flee state, report Rahul Karmakar, Digambar Patowary and Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 06:40 IST

Migrant workers from five central and north Indian states — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand — began fleeing Assam as suspected Ulfa militants killed four more Hindi-speaking people on Monday. Since Friday, 69 migrants have been killed. The toll excludes two local Congress leaders gunned down in the troubled eastern districts of the state.

Assam minister and government spokesman Himanta Biswa Sarma admitted that over 100 Hindi-speaking labourers had left in the wake of the Ulfa-orchestrated killings. "But this cannot be called an exodus," he said.

By Monday, violence spread to Golaghat district with militants killing two Bihari vegetable vendors at Gelabeel. Around 8.15 pm, it killed two Bihari labourers at Sadhunagar in Dibrugarh district.

Suspected Ulfa militants also struck in Guwahati, exploding two IEDs near the army cantonment, injuring eight persons grievously. Both bombs were planted in bicycles.

With the state on the edge, the army plans to turn on the heat by intensifying operations against the Ulfa in upper Assam.

A senior army officer confirmed that the Tezpur-based 4 Corps has chalked out plans to take on the Ulfa in Tinsukhia, Dibrugarh and Sibsagar districts. An officer in Tezpur said most parts of upper Assam that were till now under the control of paramilitary forces would now see a greater presence of army troops. As the unrest simmers, Defence Minister A.K. Antony will set off on a two-day tour of the Northeast on Tuesday.

Monday’s attacks came hours after RJD leader Lalu Yadav toured the affected areas. He stopped short of calling the Tarun Gogoi government a failure in checking violence against non-Assamese. Yadav sought high-security camps for the affected people. He also pacified the crowd of Hindi-speaking people, who have been defying curfew and blocking highways with bodies of Ulfa victims. “This mindless violence is aimed at dividing the nation, but we assure you that we have the might to deal with terrorists firmly,” he said.

The All Assam Students Union and the Purbottar Hindustani Sammelan, a conglomerate of 56 organisations, hit out at the Congress-led governments in Assam and at the Centre.

The Opposition Asom Gona Parishad (AGP) demanded President’s rule in the state. "We are ideologically against Article 356, but now, there is no alternative to president's rule," said AGP president Brindaban Goswami. AGP (Progressive) chief Prafulla Kumar Mahanta echoed him in Guwahati.

While criticising the Ulfa for cowardly attacks on unarmed labourers, Aasu advisor Samujjwal Bhattacharyya and PHS chief YL Karna talked of New Delhi's "apparent disinterest in solving the militancy problem" in Assam. They were angry that a minister of state (Sriprakash Jaiswal) took stock of Assam's volatile situation instead of Home Minister Shivraj Patil.