Hundreds of hindi speaking people fled India’s N-E Assam


Guwahati : Hundreds of panic-stricken Hindi-speakers have fled India’s northeastern state of Assam as authorities herded migrant workers into government-run shelters after 36 people were killed in separatist attacks, officials said Monday.

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A government spokesman said two relief camps have been set up to shelter migrant workers, besides shifting more than 100 other families to safer areas to foil attempts by militants to target Hindi-speaking people in eastern Assam.

“There are an estimated 200 Hindi-speaking people now sheltered in two relief camps and they are staying under full police protection.

We have also persuaded about 100 families to leave their homes and take shelter in safer areas,” Karbi Anglong district police chief Anurag Thanka said by telephone.

“These steps were being taken as a precautionary measure.” There were four coordinated attacks beginning Wednesday in eastern Assam’s Karbi Anglong district in which 28 Hindi-speakers were killed. Six of them were killed in two separate attacks Sunday.

Most of the victims were from Bihar and Rajasthan who had made Assam their home for decades and were doing business, odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishermen, and daily wage earners.

Eight more civilians, most of them Assamese, were also killed in a series of explosions across the state linked to Independence Day celebrations.

The police blamed the attacks on the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF), both working in tandem in parts of Karbi Anglong district.

“Hindi-speaking people are scattered across the district, some of them residing in interior areas, making them the soft-targets for militants”, Lajja Ram Bishnoi, deputy inspector general of police in Karbi Anglong district, said.

“People are being killed like cats and dogs.I don’t want to get killed here,” Sunil Chauhan, a Bihari migrant working in a brick kiln in eastern Assam, said as he boarded a train out of Assam. But many of those who are settled in Assam for generations have decided to fight back.

“The attacks are perpetrated by terrorists. The general Assamese people are not against us and so we have no plans to leave the state,” aid Sailesh Jha, a 60-year-old sugar cane cultivator in Bokajan in Karbi Anglong district.

Jha’s grandparents migrated to Assam a century back.

The attacks are reminiscent of the wave of killings by the ULFA in January targeting Hindi-speakers in which about 60 people were killed.

In 2000, ULFA militants killed at least 100 Hindi-speaking people in Assam in a series of well-planned attacks after the rebel group vowed to free the state of all ‘non-Assamese migrant workers’.

Rebels in insurgency-hit Assam, the largest among the seven northeastern states, have for years been boycotting the Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations to protest the central government’s rule over the vast region rich in oil, tea and timber.

The run-up to the events has always been violent, with rebels of the outlawed ULFA striking vital installations including crude oil pipelines, trains and road and rail bridges, besides targeting federal soldiers.

More than 30 rebel armies operate in the northeastern states, their demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.