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Govt to extend all support to fight ULFA: Jaiswal

The Home Ministry has said that it will help Assam in tackling the insurgency after a wave of violence left 48 dead. Is ULFA fomenting ethnic strife? Tell us here...

india Updated: Jan 07, 2007 15:10 IST

Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal on Sunday assured Assam of the central government's support to tackle insurgency after a wave of separatist killings left 48 Hindi-speaking migrant workers dead.

"The central government will extend all possible help and support to the Assam government in providing security to the people, besides taking steps to tackle insurgency," the minister told local civil and police officials in eastern Assam.

Jaiswal, accompanied by a team of top home ministry officials, arrived by a special flight in the eastern town of Dibrugarh and headed for the small industrial township Doomdooma to visit family members of some of the slain people and injured victims.

The minister is on a day-long visit to the state make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation in the wake of a wave of killings by the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

"The minister would later hold a high-level security meeting in Tinsukia with top army commanders, paramilitary, police, and civil officials," a government spokesman said.

Jaiswal is expected to hold a review meeting with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi later Sunday at Guwahati before flying back to New Delhi.

"We shall be putting forward a proposal to the minister seeking additional paramilitary forces to deal with the situation," the official said.

Meanwhile, streets in eastern Assam wore a deserted look with an indefinite curfew and shoot-at-sight order issued since late Saturday. A police spokesman said there were no overnight reports of violence with the situation gradually limping back to normal.

The ULFA went on a rampage for two straight days beginning Friday killing 48 people and wounding 30 more in separate raids in the three eastern districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, and Dhemaji targeting Hindi-speaking migrant workers.

"Security forces have fanned out across the region with the army, police, and paramilitary troopers engaged in a systematic anti-insurgency offensive," Tinsukia district magistrate Absar Hazarika told IANS.

Authorities in eastern Assam have formed several peace committees involving leaders of all communities to instil confidence among the Hindi-speaking minorities in the area.

"These peace committees are working as vigilantes and helping the affected people to come to terms with reality and trying to heal the wounds," a senior police official said.

Most of the victims were from the eastern state of Bihar who has made Assam their home for decades and doing odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishing, and as 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".

The ULFA is yet to claim responsibility for the recent attacks.

"There is no doubt that the killings are the handiwork of the ULFA," the chief minister told IANS.

But for thousands of Hindi-speaking people residing in Assam, the savage killings have triggered panic. "We want the entire area to be handed over to the army as we feel really frightened with lurking fear that ULFA militants might come and strike anytime," Ranbir Yadav, a timber merchant in Tinsukia, said.

Witnesses said several hundreds of migrant workers have fled their homes in eastern Assam. "People in all modes of vehicles and trains are leaving eastern Assam and moving to safer areas out of fear," Bimal Tiwari, a businessman, said.

First Published: Jan 07, 2007 12:32 IST