The Congress would immediately sever its alliance with the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), if evidence was found of the latter’s involvement in last week’s attack that had left over 38 dead in Kokrajhar and Baksa in Assam, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.
Meanwhile, six bodies were fished out from Beki river in Baksa after NDRF and SDRF were deployed to expedite search for bodies of those killed in Khagrabari on May 1. While four highly decomposed bodies were of girls, two were of women.
Gogoi, who visited two of the three places where alleged Bodo miscreants had attacked villagers belonging to the Muslim community, was faced with a volley of questions by the survivors who asserted that it was the BPF that engineered the attacks. A woman fainted as she tried to tell the CM that she had lost all her three children in the attack.
“The Congress will not hesitate even a moment to severe ties with the BPF if we find any evidence of its involvement in the attacks,” Gogoi said at Narayanguri, where he met survivors of last Friday’s attack on Khagrabari as well as residents of adjoining villages. He later visited Balapara in Kokrajhar district where eight persons were gunned down on May 1.
He also announced ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in the attacks.
While the government had initially named the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland for the attacks, the focus has gradually shifted to the BPF, with survivors and several organisations complaining that the attacks were instigated by the Congress ally. A high-level team of the NIA led by additional DG N R Wasan Wednesday met Assam Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla and DGP Khagen Sarma and collected relevant documents for submitting its preliminary report to the Home Ministry.
Siddique Ahmed, a senior minister in the Gogoi cabinet, told The Indian Express, “It is beyond doubt that the attacks were carried out by ex-BLT cadres who are now members of the BPF. I am also informing the party high command about this.”
NGOs concerned over safety of women, children in relief camps
Even as the demand for identifying those responsible for last week’s violence in Assam’s Kokrajhar and Baksa districts has intensified, several NGOs working in the field of wildlife, environment and development have expressed concern over the safety of women and children in relief camps and of wildlife in Manas National Park as two of the three attacks occurred in its vicinity.
North East Network, an NGO working in the field of women empowerment and development, has asked the state to revise the Assam Government Relief Manual to address violence against women in relief camps. In a letter to Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla Wednesday, the NGO said women and children have suffered the most.
“‘The Relief Camp Management Manual’ of the Assam Government does not particularly address violence against women in the camps, where they suffer from all kinds of vulnerabilities, including sexual assault. For the safety of women, we recommend that a sizeable percentage of women be inducted into the vigilance committees,”Monisha Behal, chairperson of the NGO.
It also asked the Assam government to adhere to international standards set out in United Nations ‘Guiding principles on Internally Displaced Persons’ in planning and implementing rehabilitation packages and programmes in view of the absence of a national law on displacement.
Meanwhile, seven NGOs working in the field of environment and wildlife fear the arrest of six forest personnel from Manas National Park for their alleged role in the violence would render the endangered wildlife of the Park vulnerable. The NGOs said the six personnel of the Bansbari Range of Manas had actually fired in the air to disperse a mob that had attacked the range office. Arresting the personnel was likely to hamper protection efforts of the forest staff. The NGOs that sent a joint memorandum to the government and the EC are Aaranyak, Ecosystems-India, WWF-India, Wildlife Trust of India, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Green Guard and Early Birds.