Home Minister P Chidambaram is likely to hold separate meetings with Governor J B Patnaik, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and his Council of Ministers. Earlier on Thursday evening, a team of Muslim MPs, including Congressmen, met Home Minister P Chidambaram and said they had lost faith in the Gogoi government. The Congress has announced a 10-member coordination committee to look into the violence in Assam. It includes critics of Tarun Gogoi.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the clashes in Assam are a blot on the face of the country. On day one of his visit he went to two relief camps in Korajhar. Speaking to reporters he said, "Yes, a proper enquiry will be held into the tragic circumstances...we will address the causes of the conflict. If it is instigated, the guilty will be punished. We have also directed the state government to provide security to the affected people so that they can go back home."
The Prime Minister also said providing healing touch will be an immediate challenge for the government. "I have come here to share your sorrow and pain and this is a time for healing." He announced Rs 300 crore relief package for the violence-hit state. He also announced Rs 2 lakh to families who've lost its members and Rs 50,000 to those who are seriously injured from PM's fund separately.
Sources have told NDTV that when the first incident of ethnic violence happened in Assam on July 19, the Centre alerted the state. Sources also say that the state sought deployment of the Army on Monday, July 23. A reluctant Army reportedly wanted clarification from the Defence Ministry on deployment because the situation seemed to have communal overtones. As the situation deteriorated rapidly and another request was made, the ministry cleared Army deployment on Wednesday, July 25, the sources said.
A cornered and belligerent Tarun Gogoi said he had asked for Central forces as soon as news came in that four people had been killed. He said it had taken the Army four days to reach. Mr Gogoi also emphatically said he had received no intelligence input from the Centre, adding, "I kept telling Centre we need more Central forces... Didn't get any intelligence input from Centre."
The situation in lower Assam had been tense since early July, when two Bengali-speaking Muslim settlers were killed. Two more were killed on July 19, but the police failed to identify the killers. On Friday last, July 20, four former Bodo Liberation Tigers men were killed. The Bodos retaliated by attacking Bengali-speaking settlers and the clashes began.
Mr Gogoi is now under tremendous pressure; it took the CM a full week after the ethnic clashes began to reach Kokrajhar, the epicentre of the violence. There he had said on Friday, "Assam is not burning." He has been universally slammed for what is being called his inept handling of a sensitive situation. The situation is volatile, and there have only been sporadic incidents of violence in the last two days.
The Centre has authorised the Assam government to deploy more than 11,000 paramilitary personnel in the state's violence-hit districts and dispatched a C-135 heavy lift aircraft with medical teams and supplies. Central paramilitary forces are now out in full force in Assam; the deployment of 65 paramilitary companies has been ordered and 53 companies have reached Assam so far. Of these five were sent on the night of July 20. So far 7,300 personnel of paramilitary forces have been deployed in strife-torn Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri districts after moving them from other states in the wake of clashes between Bodos and minority immigrants there.
The focus is now on relief. The relief camps set up are overcrowded and have poor sanitation. People at these camps say there are insufficient food, drinking water and medicines. The government has denied this. A two-year-old child and a 60-year-old man have died in different relief camps in Bilasipara, Dhubri district; the cause of death of either is yet to be ascertained.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blamed illegal immigrants for the Assam violence and charged the Congress with "inaction" in checking their entry into the country for vote-bank politics and demanded the resignation of Mr Gogoi. "The government did not take appropriate action in time to prevent the Assam violence.... Illegal migrants are behind the problem. But the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government is not doing anything on the issue.... It is only doing vote bank politics," BJP general secretary Vijay Goel said.