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Black Friday for hapless Biharis in Upper Assam
Subhashis Mittra in Tinsukia | January 08, 2007 12:18 IST
Trembling with shock, a dazed Parsuram could hardly speak when Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal went to his hut to console him. On the cot lay his daughter, Rekha, bandaged and writhing in pain because of bullet injury.
"Mera beta mara gaya (my son has been killed)," were the only words he could blurt out as he slipped into intermittent fits.
Jaiswal, heading a high-level central team, also visited the house of Geeta Devi on Sunday, who lost her husband and father-in- law when the trigger-happy marauders carried out their bloodbath in the worst-hit district, now placed under curfew. 34 persons have been killed in six incidents in this district. Geeta has two little kids to take care of.
Jaiswal saw the blood-soaked bodies of the victims lying on the highway blockaded by angry villagers demanding adequate compensation.
He visited the Dibrugarh Medical College Hospital to find out the conditions of the injured and asked the doctors to provide proper medical care to them and hand over bodies after post mortem examination to the next of the kin of the deceased.
A PTI correspondent visiting some of the affected areas saw palpable tension in villages having non-Assamese population in the wake of the coordinated attacks by ULFA, which has turned Assam into a veritable killing field.
The green tea gardens hardly fail to pep up the spirit of a visitor who has heard the agonising wails of the victims.
Because of panic, migrant workers are shell-shocked and a number of them said that unless security for property was provided to them, they would be forced to flee their home and move to safer places.
They said it was difficult to forget how in the pre-dawn raid, ULFA militants dressed in army fatigues attacked brick kiln workers and fishermen, tied their hands and shot them from close range.
However, some among them say that an exodus would only embolden the ULFA militants and hence they would continue to stay in Assam and fight them with courage and determination, as suggested by Jaiswal.
Local people feel failure of peace talks with ULFA is expected to result in more violence, while officials say the series of attacks on migrants is now going to make it more difficult for the government to invite the ULFA leadership for another round of talks with Centre.
Intelligence sources say that ULFA has set up new camps again in Bhutan two years after it was flushed out in a special army operation. ULFA leaders operate from unspecified locations in Bangladesh, though Dhaka denies their presence, and now they are believed to have shifted to neighbouring Bhutan. They are also said to be reactivating their training camps in adjoining Myanmar.
As Jaiswal met the affected families, the people shouted slogans against the Congress government in the state and also against the ULFA.
He was asked by some family members of victims to provide Rs 10 lakh compensation to those killed and a government job and Rs 5 lakh to those injured. Jaiswal later told reporters that he would discuss the demand with the prime minister.
When the minister promised to take all necessary measures to ensure that such incidents did not recur, a voice from the crowd asked what the guarantee was.
The district has witnessed similar massacres in the past and the fresh incident is a grim reminder to the previous bloodlettings. Upper Assam has a bloodstained history, as in the past few years, scores of Hindi-speaking people have been killed.
On the state government's demand for 90 additional companies of paramilitary forces (70 companies for vulnerable areas and the rest for National Games), Jaiswal agreed to take up the matter with the home minister.
As a solution to the ULFA problem, he asked Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to fill up vacancies in the state police immediately by recruiting the local youth as they can tackle the insurgents better than the central forces who do not know the topography or language of the area.
Besides, such recruitment would help ease the unemployment problem to some extent, he explained.