Here are the latest developments in this story:
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 today 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 yesterday, "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.
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. Ten companies are still reportedly stuck on the national highway en-route from Tripura. Two companies are being airlifted. Eight paramilitary companies on permanent deployment in Assam have also been redeployed.
The focus is now on relief. The relief camps set up are overcrowded and have poor sanitation. People at these camps say there is 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.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, will arrive in the state tomorrow morning. He is likely to be accompanied by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Home Minister P Chidambaram will visit Kokrajhar and adjoining districts on Monday. The Cabinet Secretary, Ajit Seth, today reviewed relief arrangements with the Chief Secretary of Assam with PC Sharma. A team of doctors has been sent from Delhi to provide medical aid.
The Congress has announced a 10-member coordination committee to look into the violence in Assam. It includes critics of Tarun Gogoi. Sources say senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh discussed Assam with Rahul Gandhi yesterday. 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 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blamed illegal immigrants for the Assam violence and today 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.
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