India sends more troops to strife-torn Assam

Federal government orders more troops to be sent to the three worst-hit districts to quell ethnic strife.

    Indian authorities have rushed more troops to quell ethnic violence in a remote northeastern state where dozens of people have been killed over the past week and villagers are frightened to return to their burned-out homes.

    On Thursday, Assam's Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi met with Bodo and Muslim leaders in an effort to defuse tensions and restore peace, while the federal government ordered more troops to be sent to the three worst-hit districts, Kokrajhar, Dibrugarh and Chirang.

    A curfew has helped curtail the violence, but local officials said the situation remains tense. Police reported sporadic violence in Chirang as armed bands of Bodo youth roamed the deserted villages.

    Clashes between members of the ethnic Bodo community and Muslim settlers in Assam state have left 42 people dead and 13 others missing, state officials said. Six of the 42 were killed by security forces, who were given a mandate on Tuesday to shoot rioters on sight.

    The killing of four Bodo men last week sparked off violent attacks by Bodo tribes people on Muslim villages.

    Show of force

    Hundreds of homes were torched and more than 200,000 people fled their homes for relief camps set up in schools and government buildings.

    Soldiers have orders to shoot to kill arsonists and a 24-hour curfew is in place, said G. D. Tripathi, Assam's home secretary.

    There are already 6,000 army and paramilitary soldiers on the ground. They have marched through towns and villages in a show of force to give residents confidence to return to their homes.

    Thousands of frightened villagers are crammed into about 125 relief camps hastily set up by local administrators.

    Each day there is a scramble for limited water and food. Harried officials are trying to provide food, clothes and mattresses for the streams of people who have lost all their possessions.

    On Thursday, the Assam government announced that 600,000 rupees ($11,000) would be paid as compensation to the families of those killed.


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