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Jul 24, 2012 at 01:53pm IST

Assam violence: 21 dead, over 50,000 homeless

Kokrajhar: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday said that the situation in Kokrajhar was still tense and the state government was trying its best to control it. The violence in the Kokrajhar region of Assam has shown no sign of ending with the death toll up to 21. An estimated 50,000 refugees have taken shelter in relief camps so far, while those affected in the violence are said to be more than 60,000.

Gogoi said that panic was the reason why many people were leaving their homes. "21 people have been killed, more than 40,000 people are in the camps. We have sent para military forces to the location and have ordered shoot at site orders. We are dealing firmly with the situation."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has directed Gogoi to do everything possible to control the situation in Kokrajhar and Chirang.

The violence has spread to neighbouring districts such as Chirang and turned into a rail blockade agitation as well. With hundreds of protesters protesting on railway tracks, six north-east bound trains have been cancelled while 18 others are said to have been affected. Many trains have been forced to halt for six to 10 hours at the New Jalpaiguri station in West Bengal and at other stations in Assam. Those halted include the Kanchanjanga Express and the Awadh Assam Express.

While the Indian Railway has stepped up security and made food and water arrangements for stranded passengers, 14 companies of the CRPF have been sent in to the state.

The three days of violence have left 21 people dead in the region. Nearly 400 villages are said to be affected and even as shoot-at-sight orders remain in place in the region, the houses of many of those who fled were torched and burnt on Tuesday morning.

The Assam Police says it has formed special peace committees to talk to the people.

"Forty-two relief camps have been set up to take care of the more than 60,000 people affected in the violence," a source added.

The root cause of the violence, however, still remains unexplained.

There are some reports of land encroachment problems, some of outsiders fuelling attacks but no one is sure what led to the violence. The trigger though took place in a village called Joypur on Friday where four people where hacked to death. After that, attacks and counter attacks have spread like wildfire.

Chandan Bramha, the state Transport Minister, said, "The entire incident is very unfortunate. Violence will never solve any problem. I condemn this incident."

Curfew is still on in Kokrajhar from 6 am to 6 pm and the entire area looks like a ghost town.

The Army is making its presence felt and covering their area of responsibility. For the helpless people who remain huddled together in shelter camps, however, the nights continue to remain one of horror.

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