With the return of violence in Assam, the government on Wednesday said the Army was put on alert to deal with any situation, even as the Opposition termed the incidents “unprecedented” and accused the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of the “greatest failure” in controlling the disturbances.
An adjournment motion on the ethnic violence, moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha on the opening day of the monsoon session, was rejected by a voice vote. Veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani, who moved the motion, expressed dissatisfaction with the reply of Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.
All help assured
Condemning the violence, Mr. Shinde said the Central government had given all help to Assam for handling the situation. In his reply to the five-hour discussion on the motion, he appealed to the members not to trade charges but cooperate with the government in restoring normality and peace in the violence-affected districts of lower Assam. “I have kept the Army on alert,” he said.
It was Mr. Shinde’s maiden reply as Home Minister after he took over the key Ministry a week ago from P. Chidambaram, who moved to the Finance Ministry.
The month-long violence in Assam, which has so far claimed 74 lives, was also taken up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha amid heated exchanges between the ruling Congress and Opposition members.
Detailing the sequence of the violent incidents, Mr. Shinde said tension was already simmering in the Bodo-dominated areas and the chain of events started after an attack by suspected KLO terrorists in which two members of the minority community were killed. He said 14 additional companies of the Central forces were deployed in the violence-affected districts. Their number would go up to 65 companies.
The Minister informed the House that 170 persons arrested so far and more than 300 cases had been registered. He said that a “comprehensive security plan” had been chalked out to control violence and speed up relief and rehabilitation of the victims and displaced persons.
“As many as 104 police pickets have been proposed in vulnerable villages, of which 99 have been established. They have been given the responsibility of ensuring security for the affected villages,” he said.
Mr. Shinde said the present status of relief and rehabilitation measures indicated that during the peak time, 340 relief camps were established with over 4.8 lakh inmates. Leaders from both Bodo and non-Bodo communities had been asked to intervene to restore normality.
Earlier, Mr. Advani termed the violence in Assam “unprecedented” and criticised the UPA government’s handling of the issue. Pointing out that the people of Assam “have become refugees in their own State,” the veteran BJP leader said that when he visited relief camps in Kokrajhar — the epicentre of the clashes — people looked worried that they might never be able to return to their homes.
He squarely blamed illegal immigration from Bangladesh for the violence, saying the issue was between Indians and those who entered the country from across the border. He demanded an updated National Register of Citizens and wanted the government to inform Parliament of the number of illegal immigrants in India, particularly in Assam. He said Bangladeshis who were entering India illegally should be disfranchised and deported.