Situation improving, says Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi after visiting Kokrajhar; Manmohan Singh to visit state on Saturday

The riot-torn Kokrajhar district of Assam witnessed sporadic incidents of violence on Thursday even as flag marches were conducted by the Army and additional paramilitary forces deployed.

The manner and pattern of violence are of concern to the security forces. There is a fear that militant Bodo and Muslim groups are preparing for a long-drawn battle. Army personnel say “this could be just the beginning” of a prolonged fight, as several militant groups are hiding around 1,200 firearms.

However, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, during a visit here, said: “Though not completely normal, the situation has improved.” He insisted that violence and arson had come down and train services restored

Mr. Gogoi urged the media not to project that the State was burning. He asserted that only Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang in the Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD) were hit by violence. He said the deployment of additional forces helped restore peace.

The Chief Minister, at an hour-long meeting at the Circuit House, interacted with Bodo and Muslim leaders, besides civil, Army and paramilitary officials.

Mr. Gogoi acknowledged that a big task remained at hand, with nearly 2 lakh people taking refuge in relief camps. Efforts would be made to ensure their safe return to their homes. He announced an ex gratia of Rs. 6 lakh to the next of kin of those killed (42 people). Compensation would be paid to the injured and those who lost their property.

Even as Mr. Gogoi was visiting Kokrajhar, reports of fresh violence were received from Jaima Kadamguri in Gossaigaon. Miscreants torched 10 to 15 houses in the village. A former MLA from Gossaigaon, who was witness to arson, said a large number of people were leaving their homes and fleeing south towards Dhubri district. Meanwhile, the Army conducted flag marches across the three districts with 13 companies, comprising nearly 1,200 troops.

For the people of Kokrajhar district, the main concern is supply of essentials whose prices have skyrocketed. It has almost been a week since suppliers discontinued sending vehicles here.