Political parties, across the board, condemned the "senseless" killing of 48 people by ULFA in Assam, with their leaders warning that such violence was aimed at dividing the nation on sectarian lines and blocking the economic progress of the state.
Congress president and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi said that such violence, instead of leading to any solution, would only retard the economic progress of the state. "Violence has no place in a democraic country like ours. Solution to all problems can be found through dialogue," Gandhi said in a statement, while condemning the "senseless killing of innocent, harmless, unarmed poor people." She appealed to the people to maintain calm.
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and Railway Minister Lalu Yadav, on his part, spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and expressed his grief over the killings of Bihari labourers by ULFA militants. The minister, who said he will visit Tinsukhia and Dibrugarh on Monday where the killings took place alongwith his ministerial colleague Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav, also contacted Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi who, he said, assured him that full security would be given to every section of society in Assam.
"The contribution of people from Bihar in Assam's development is no more a concealed fact. The reprehensible killings are meant to frighten the people and divide the country on sectarian lines," Lalu said.
Former Union Minister Sharad Yadav too condemned the killings. The JD (U) leader met Home Minister Shivraj Patil to express concern at the rising violence in Punjab, Mumbai, Kashmir and Assam. "These incidents are dangerous for the country," he told the Home Minister. He urged the Centre to take "corrective" steps and frame some policy to ensure that such incidents do not take place.
The JD(U) leader also raised questions about the failure of the intelligence agencies to track the militant activities in the region.
Another Bihar leader, Lok Janshakti chief Ram Vilas Paswan also reacted strongly to the killings.The Union Minister for Fertilisers wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to ensure that the life and property of the people belonging to Bihar and other non-Assamese people should be protected and adequate security steps taken so that such incidents to not recur.
He demanded the Assam government take "immediate effective steps" to stop the innocent killings. He also sought adequate compensation for the families of the victims and proper treatment for the injured.
BJP president Rajnath Singh — who will visit Assam on January 9 — saw the "cowardly killing" of non-Assamese by ULFA as a reflection of the Centre's "inept handling" of the country's internal security.
"This unfortunate event is a direct result of the Congress party's and the government's soft stand on terror and separatists...It is evident now that the Congress government at the Centre has lost all the advantages gained during the NDA regime over ULFA terror," he said in a statement. Accusing the Congress with taking the help of ULFA in elections, he said it was because of this that the ruling party was not able to deal with the banned outfit firmly.
Expressing "shock and outrage" at the mass killings in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Dhemagi districts, the CPI(M) said the ULFA had once again shown its "reactionary character" by targeting poor workers who had gone to the state to earn livelihoods.
"Such dastardly acts will further isolate the ULFA from the people of Asom. The state government has once against proved its incapacity to deal firmly with such terrorist activities," the CPM Polit Bureau said in a statement.
It also urged the Gogoi government to call an all-party meeting to evolve a common approach to deal with the problem.
Email Saroj Nagi: snagi @hindustantimes.com