The News Minute | December 24, 2014 | 08:31 am IST
Guwahati: The toll in the violence unleashed by Bodo militants rose to 71 on Wednesday, even as Home Minister Rajnath Singh, accompanied by two union ministers, reached Assam and reviewed the law and order situation with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and other top officials.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told the media that 37 tribals were killed in Sonitpur, 25 in Kokrajhar and three in Chirang districts as the Bodos went on a killing spree late Tuesday.
In a probable retaliatory attack on Wednesday, suspected adivasis killed three Bodo people at a village near Behali in Sonitpur district. This brought the death toll to 71. Those slaughtered include 21 women and 18 children.
There were also reports of burning of houses belonging to both communities in many parts of the state. Police said the violence also spread to neighbouring Udalguri district.
Gogoi said curfew had been imposed in the affected areas and he had briefed both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the situation.
"The central government has taken the matter seriously, and we are going to deal with the militants firmly," he said. "We are not going to surrender to them. We cannot allow these forces to continue."
Modi expressed grief over the killings, and announced on Wednesday, ex-gratia of Rs.2 lakh each to families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to the seriously injured.
The Prime Minister's Office said Rs.86 lakh will be released to the Assam government.
Both Modi and Rajnath Singh telephoned Gogoi Tuesday night and promised all help to deal with the situation.
The killings have been blamed on the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). The attacks in all three districts began around 6.15 p.m. Tuesday, almost simultaneously.
On Wednesday, three people were killed in police firing after thousands of adivasis who took out a procession at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur district indulged in violence.
"The army and paramilitary forces have been assisting the police in handling the situation," Gogoi said.
He said the central government had promised to send 55 companies of paramilitary forces. Twenty companies were likely to reach Assam Wednesday evening.
The NDFB faction opposed to peace talks had warned it would retaliate after Assam Police launched an operation against them, particularly in the area bordering Bhutan.
The police on Sunday killed two Bodo militants and seized arms and ammunition from them.
Gogoi said: "The NDFB militants have targeted innocent people as they wanted a soft target to retaliate.
"It is barbaric and inhuman. They have killed minor children. There cannot be any justification for such killings."
He urged the electronic media not to show graphic images of the dead and wounded.
Officials said additional forces had been sent to the affected areas. Curfew has been imposed in parts of the three districts.
"Our first priority will be to restore peace. We will take all measures to ensure there is no escalation in the violence," the chief minister said.
Tension has gripped the three districts, where scores of people have fled their homes and taken shelter in safer places fearing further attacks by the militants.
The Assam government has announced ex gratia of Rs.5 lakh to families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to those injured in the violence.