18,000 displaced by Garo-Rabha clashes

SHILLONG/TURA, Jan 7 – Over 18,000 Garo and Rabha tribals have been displaced from their homes in Assam and Meghalaya due to ethnic clashes between the two communities. The figure could further increase, official sources said.

The situation continues to remain tense with the death toll from the ongoing violence rising to seven by Thursday.

One of the six injured Rabha labourers who were attacked at Gokulgre village, near Bajengdoba, on Wednesday afternoon succumbed to his injuries at Tura civil hospital today. Biswajit Rabha, aged 32, hailed from Norgatatipara village under Krishnai police outpost. Three of his associates had died at Gokulgre itself during the mob attack.

Across the border in Assam, authorities retrieved the body of 55 year old Mintong Momin from Salpara early this morning. He reportedly died from a police firing that took place in the area after mobs tried to torch Rabha houses in that part of the state. The deceased hailed from Chotcholja village of Kharkutta police outpost.

A relief team has been rushed from the State capital here to assist rehabilitation of victims. The situation in East Garo Hills in Meghalaya and Goalpara district in Assam is far from normal.

“We have set up six relief and rehabilitation camps in Kharkutta, Mendhipathar, Dainadubi and Dilma in East Garo Hills district. There are over 3,000 victims in the camps from both communities,” Deputy Commissioner Pravin Bakshi said over phone from Resubelpara in Garo Hills.

The district administration is taking all steps to provide blankets, clean and safe drinking water, food and medical assistance to the displaced victims.

“We are doing our best to ensure that no lives are lost. The medical team has been moving around in these camps to prevent outbreak of any disease,” Bakshi added.

In Goalpara district, the number is much higher. PK Goswami, the Deputy Commissioner of Goalpara district said, by evening today 15,400 victims were lodged in 12 relief camps of the district. The victims are from both communities.

“We are providing all help to the victims. Security is a big concern now. Once that issue is addressed we would seriously look into rehabilitating the victims,” Goswami said over phone.

Both the Deputy Commissioners have had telephonic conversations this morning and are coordinating to bring the situation under control. They said that although the situation in their respective districts, is under control the overall law-and-order situation is far from satisfactory.

“No freash violence were reported today in the district,” Bakhsi and Goswami said about the law-and-order situation in their respective districts. The ethnic clash has claimed the lives of four people in Garo Hills yesterday. Several others were injured.

Meanwhile, the Meghalaya Peoples’ Human Rights Council (MPHRC) today demanded that both governments (Assam and Meghalaya) must take immediate steps to avoid further loses of lives.

It further urged that all incidents of human rights abuses in the context of the violence be thoroughly investigated and that the perpetrator(s) of the crime are promptly brought to justice.

Sangma briefs Chidambaram

Shillong, Jan 6: Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma today briefed Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on the situation in ethnic-violence hit Assam-Meghalaya border areas and urged Defence Minister A K Antony to deploy army in the disturbed areas.

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