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Assam CM to visit blast site

G Vinayak in Guwahati | August 17, 2004 11:48 IST

Assam Chief minister Tarun Gogoi left for Dhemaji town on Tuesday morning to take stock of the situation after Sunday's blast at an Independence Day function, which killed 17 people.

Gogoi is expected to meet the family members of the victims of the blast, triggered by the United Liberation Front of Asom.

Seven school children and six women were among the dead.

Gogoi's visit comes a day after the state observed a day of mourning.

This is the first time the ULFA has targeted an I-Day function although it has been giving boycott calls for both January 26 and August 15 for years.

The opposition in the state was quick to pounce upon the CM's statement admitting security lapse.

"The government must be accused of remaining complacent despite a series of bomb attacks by militants throughout last week," Asom Gana Parishad general secretary and Dhemaji legislator Dilip Kumar Saikia said.

"That the Dhemaji explosion occurred at the venue of an official function has exposed the laxity of the security arrangement. Merely suspending the SP and additional SP cannot be a solution.

"There were intelligence reports that the ULFA would strike during Independence Day but we didn't imagine they would strike in such a way, killing schoolchildren," Gogoi later said.

The All Assam Students Union held the government responsible.

"It is a matter of grave concern because the explosion occurred at the venue of an official function. This government has failed to provide security to even schoolchildren," AASU president Prabin Boro said.

The student body has called for a 12-hour statewide bandh on Wednesday.

The ULFA, meanwhile, under attack from a large section of the population for not sparing children in its fight against the government, was a trifle apologetic.

In an emailed statement to the local media, the outfit's chairman, Arabinda Rajkhowa, expressed grief at the death of the children and requested the people not to misunderstand them.

He, however, accused the government of using children to achieve its objectives.

The outfit reminded that appeal was given by six organisations of the region to boycott the I-Day celebrations and observe August 15 as a protest day throughout the state. "But the administration without caring for the lives of innocent children used them to achieve its political goal. Nobody except the administration is responsible for the tragedy," the statement added.

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