As ethnic violence in some parts of Assam worsened over the weekend,Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had to be prodded into action by the Centre with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself delivering a strong message through a phone call on Monday.
It is reliably learnt that Singh told Gogoi to deal with the situation with a firm hand and bring an end to the violence in Kokrajhar and adjoining districts as soon as possible. The ethnic clashes has claimed 46 lives so far.
The PM has also decided to visit the affected areas in Kokrajhar on Saturday,Home Minister P Chidambaram said. Sources said the pro-active intervention from the Centre was a result of reports from intelligence agencies that the state government had been slow in dealing with the situation.
The tough message was conveyed by the Centre on the ground as well with MHA officials telling the two sides that their leaders would be the first ones to be booked in case of further clashes.
In my meetings with the leaders of both sides,I have conveyed it very plainly that if any further violent incident takes place,the leaders of the guilty party,be they ministers,MPs or MLAs or whatever,would be the first ones to be named in the FIRs, said Shambhu Singh,Joint Secretary in-charge of North-East in the Home Ministry.
Singh is part of the two-member team of the MHA camping in the affected areas. The other official is Special Secretary (Internal Security) Ajay Chaddha. Both had meetings with community leaders on Thursday.
Meanwhile,a group of Muslim MPs led by Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka K Rahman Khan sent a memorandum to the PM demanding the immediate dissolution of the Bodo-Territorial Council,while blaming the state government for failing to take adequate measures to prevent the situation. A group of six Muslim MPs,from across political spectrum,also met Chidambaram requesting that the Centre should ensure relief and rehabilitation for the 200,000 displaced people in the quickest possible time.
Chidambaram told reporters that no deaths had occurred in the last 24 hours and the situation was slowly being brought under control. He added that he might go to the affected areas sometime later.
Meanwhile,MP from Dhubri,Maulana Badruddin Ajmal,whose All India United Democratic Front is an ally of the UPA at the Centre,blamed the state government for acting in connivance with the Bodos to eliminate the Muslims. I met the (Home Ministry) officials and demanded that the displaced people be rehabilitated within a week. I have been assured by the Home Ministry officials that this will be done. But I do not trust the Assam government. This entire violence took place with the support of the state government, Ajmal said.
Rehabilitation in a week: MHA
THE Home Ministry has promised that every displaced family would head back to their home in a week. Within a week,everyone in the relief camps would be heading back to their homes. Security will be ensured after they return to their villages and the security personnel would continue to remain in the areas till the situation is back to normal. Confidence of the people would need to be restored, said Shambhu Singh,Joint Secretary in-charge of Northeast Affairs.
Digvijaya defends CM Gogoi
Congress general secretary in-charge of Assam Digvijaya Singh backed CM Tarun Gogoi over his handling of the violence,saying all steps that could have been taken. He rejected any parallel between the violence in Assam and the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Communal riots took place in Gujarat under the nose of the CM in cities like Ahmedabad. In Assam it was in rural areas where the administration had difficulty in reaching due to the rains this time. ENS