Fresh violence erupted in Assam with militants killing four more people, taking the toll in a string of deadly attacks mainly targeting Hindi-speaking migrant workers rising to 66, officials said on Monday.
"The overall death toll since Friday has risen to 66, of which 57 are Hindi-speaking people, two are militants, five policeman and two government officials," said Assam government spokesperson Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Sarma, who is also the health minister, said armed militants late on Sunday attacked a group of Bihari workers near Thowra tea plantation in eastern Assam's Sivasagar district, about 420 kms from Guwahati.
"Three people were killed in the attack," Sarma said. Militants also shot a businessman in western Kokrajhar district on Sunday night.
"We are yet to ascertain if the killing of the businessman was related to the violence targeting Hindi-speakers," he said.
Police and Army personnel in a joint raid killed two militants of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) near Sepon in Sivasagar district on Sunday.
The Assam government has now ordered all Hindi-speaking people working in brick kilns in the state to stay in designated camps.
"We have asked district authorities to identify brick kilns in remote areas and arrange temporary accommodation in schools or other buildings for the workers and provide them security when they go to work," Sarma said.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said: "The time now is for restraint and calm so that forces inimical to the interest of the state don't take advantage of the situation. Security forces are deployed across the state."
However, Sarma added: "We cannot say with certainty that there will be no further attacks. We are deploying security forces in all vulnerable areas, and especially at night."
"The militants have changed their modus operandi from urban terror tactics to targeting rural areas that are not only remote but at times inaccessible."
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav is arriving in Assam on Monday to offer his sympathies for Biharis. Three ministers and a senior police official from Bihar are also camping in Tinsukia since Sunday to study the situation.
Most victims were from Bihar and had made Assam their home for decades, doing odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishermen and daily wage earners.
In 2000, ULFA militants killed at least 100 Hindi speaking people in Assam in a series of well-planned attacks after the rebel group vowed to free the state of all 'non-Assamese migrant workers'.