India's prime minister has promised to help hundreds of thousands of survivors of ethnic rioting in the country's northeast that killed at least 53 people.

Manmohan Singh flew on Saturday to Kokrajhar district, one of the worst affected by the clashes between ethnic Bodos and Muslim settlers in Assam state, and met with people in two relief camps in the area's main city.

Singh called the fighting "a blot" on the country and promised the families of those killed compensation.

The killing of four Bodo men last week sparked the violence. While the rioting is now mostly under control, thousands of troops continue to patrol the districts of Kokrajhar, Dibrugarh and Chirang. Night curfews are also in place in several areas.

The fighting forced about 400,000 people to flee their homes in western Assam. Thousands of wood and thatch houses have been razed to the ground.

The government has set up about 270 camps to house the survivors.

The clashes between Bodos and the Muslim settlers, who mostly came from the former East Pakistan before it became Bangladesh in 1971, mainly involve land rights. The two groups have clashed repeatedly over the years but the recent violence is the worst since the mid-1990s.

Source: Agencies