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Centre condemns ULFA violence

Centre promises to reassess deployment for more central forces in the state, reports Aloke Tikku.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2007 22:15 IST

The string of attacks over the last two days in Assam, which have left 48 dead, provoked a sharp reaction from the Central government that condemned the attack and promised to reassess deployment for more central forces in the state to check violence.

Union home minister Shivraj Patil on Saturday asked his junior minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, to visit the state for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation in view of the attacks that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as “anti-people act of cowardice and inhumanity".

United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) insurgents are suspected to have killed 48 migrant workers and wounded at least 19 others in 10 attacks through Friday evening and early Saturday in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts of Assam. ULFA separatists had earlier called for a boycott of the National Games scheduled early next month, prompting appeals from the state assembly to withdraw its call to the games.

Union home secretary VK Duggal visited the state this week and declared that the National Games would be held as schedule. Duggal held on to this position after an “emergency” review meeting convened by Shivraj Patil on Saturday evening as well, promising that the games would go on “smoothly”.

Duggal said the attacks should not raise the question of laxity among security personnel – “there cannot be an armed guard for every individual” – but “what are you trying to do, what are you trying to convey”. In a message aimed at the rebel group, Duggal went on to emphasise that migrant labourers were as much of citizens of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia as anyone else.

Besides helping Assam put a stop to violence aimed at the poor migrant labourers, the immediate concern in Delhi as well as Assam and Bihar – most of the dead were Bihari immigrants – was linked to fears of a repeat of 2003.

In November 2003, Bihari candidates were prevented from attending the railway recruitment test in Assam, first sparking violence against them elsewhere in the state and then a backlash in Bihar. Trains to and from Guwahati passing through Bihar were stopped and hundreds of Assamese passengers beaten up.

It was in this context that Shivraj Patil described the attacks as “an attempt to disturb communal harmony”; a home ministry spokesman later added that advisories had been issued to Bihar and West Bengal to take precautionary measures to prevent retaliatory attacks. By evening, Bihar declared that an alert had been sounded and instructions issued to district officials to provide extra security to trains to the northeast.

ULFA that had at one point put Bangladeshi immigrants at the top of its hate list softened its stand against them; a change of priority that has been linked to Bangladeshi intelligence playing host to top ULFA leaders like Paresh Baruah and Arabinda Rajkhowa and the numerous bases that they have in the neighbouring country.

Instead, they started targeting Hindi speaking non-Assamese people beginning with the second half of 2000. Executive director at the Institute for Conflict Management Ajai Sahni had described this as the “new dimension” to the conflict dynamics of Assam. Nearly 100 Hindi-speaking immigrants were killed in less than six months.

First Published: Jan 06, 2007 22:15 IST