The number of dead has risen to 32 in Assam, northeastern India, as ethinc violence sprials out of control in the wake of the country's national elections.
NEW DELHI – The death toll in the Baksa district of Assam, India, rose to 32 Saturday after the recovery of nine more people as violence continues in the area, Indian media reported.
The nine dead included four children and two women in the Khagrabari village near the Manas National Park. The two children were identified as Ilina Khatun and Ariful Islam.
Indian authorities say that the suspected Bodo militants belonging to the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland are behind the massacre.
Badruddin Ajmal, member of Indian Parliament and perfume magnate, from adjoining Dhubri area where thousands of Muslims have taken shelter in relief camps, told Anadolu Agency that the Congress party-led state government must be dissolved.
“We demand imposition of President’s rule in the state as the government has failed in its constitutional duty to protect Indian minorities,” Ajmal said, adding that the autonomy of the Bodoland Territorial Council must be rescinded as it has failed in its commitment to safeguard the non-Bodo population.
The affected area of Baksa and Kokrajhar districts, where the ethnic violence started on Thursday night, fall under Bodoland Territorial Administration Districts administered by the council.
Mumbai-based, Burhanuddin Qasmi, editor of monthly English magazine ‘Easter Crescent’, who hails from Assam, told Anadolu Agency that a large number of Muslims are still missing in Baksa district.
“The death toll is likely to rise as many Muslims who fled from Baksa and other villages are still missing,” he said.
Qasmi claimed one regional Bodo leader had threatened Muslims three days ago in the affected area as the leader believed Muslims did not vote for the Bodo candidate of choice in the voting in India’s national elections in Assam.
Since Thursday, more than 50 houses belonging to members of the Muslim community have been set ablaze and the Indian police have arrested 12 people from the Baksa area in connection with four attacks that singled out Bengali-speaking Muslims.
The Indian Army and paramilitary forces marched through the affected area Saturday morning and an indefinite curfew is in force in Baksa and neighboring villages.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the “terrorist attacks” terming it as “cowardly attempts to spread fear and terror among” the citizens.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi dismissed calls by opposition parties and civil rights activists for his resignation.
“I will not step down as a chief minister. I am not a coward… I will not run away from battlefield, I will fight the terrorists,” Gogoi said after chairing a meeting demanding a probe by federal National Investigation Agency.
The ethnic violence which began Thursday night when Bodo militants armed with automatic assault rifles fired indiscriminately at a group of people in Baksa district followed by a second attack in the Kokrajhar district. A third attack took place Friday evening when 10 bodies sprayed with bullets were recovered from the Baksa district.
The rebels, an ethnic minority, have been fighting for a separate homeland for the region’s Bodo people against India.
Friday’s killings are the second biggest ethnic attack since 2012 when riots between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims left over 80 people dead and displaced 400,000.
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