Assam's Chirang district tense again, memories of 2012 communal violence linger

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Chirang was one of the worst-affected districts in the communal clashes last year.

Chirang:  The kidnapping of an Assamese businessman in the state's Chirang district at the end of November has resulted in fresh tension in the area. A Bodo youth was subsequently lynched; a Bengali daily wager attacked.

The kidnapped businessman has since been released but the tension has not eased.

Chirang was one of the worst-affected districts in the communal clashes last year. The Home Ministry has again alerted the Assam government.

Peace meetings are being held in some of the tense villages. On Monday, one was held at Oxiguri. People of all communities attended: Bodos, Bengalis, Muslims and Rajbangshis.

The peace meeting at Oxiguri was called because on November 23, a Bodo youth was publicly beaten to death here. The lynching came hours after the Assamese businessman was kidnapped at Panbari, a village 20 km away.

The Bodo youth was attacked because the kidnap sparked rumours that motorbike-borne National Democratic Front of Bodoland or NDFB (Songbijit) group -- who are mostly Bodos -- had attacked Assamese businessmen. The Bodo youth who was lynched was riding a motorcycle.

"For some time after the lynching, we feared the Bengalis and Bodos would start fighting. It was very tense for several days. But now things are a calmer," said Uttam Goyari, an Oxiguri resident,

A police officer in Chirang, Moneesh Mishra, seconded that. "Yes, things looked bad for a while but now people are cooperating and things should get better from now on," he said.

But ripples of unease continue. The day after the Bodo youth's death, a Bengali cart-puller was attacked in another village, Beshargaon, allegedly by Bodos.

After the Bodo lynching, police started picking up Bengali men from Oxybazar while after the attack on the Bengali daily wager, cops began to pick Bodo men from Anandbazar village, including a school headmaster.

Baburam Brahma, the headmaster, says, "These arrests are causing a lot of tension. They picked me up; they picked up the village chairman for a crime that happened in another village 5 to 10 km away. If this thing continues, then 2012 could well repeat itself."

Another Anandbazar resident Komal Thapa says, "The administration must take steps to prevent communal tension from rising. The random arrests are creating tension. The first thing they must do is to arrest the NDFB (Songbijit) insurgents and seize illegal arms in the area."

The administration is now holding peace meetings in the villages. It has asked the state government to replace the five companies of central forces withdrawn from Chirang last month for poll duty.

Chirang needs all the help it can get. The shadow of last year's communal violence has not lifted entirely yet.


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