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New violence erupts in Assam

Aid workers cannot reach affected areas as death toll rises

New violence erupts in Assam
Guwahati's streets were emptied by a strike to protest against violence in Assam reporter, Guwahati

August 28, 2012

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Assam’s wave of violence continued yesterday with deaths, critical injuries and thousands more forced to flee their homes. One person died and four were badly wounded in a village in the Kokrajhar district, one of the main flashpoints, after unknown gunmen opened fire. Local reports say grenades were thrown and at least a dozen houses were torched, forcing villagers to take shelter in a railway station. The death toll in the clashes between Bodo tribesmen and Muslim settlers from neighboring Bangladesh has now reached 89, with more than 400,000 people rendered homeless. The latest conflicts began on July 20 in the western Assam districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Dhubri and Baksa. These are part of the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts, an autonomous region that has been the scene of ethnic violence for more than 20 years. There is a growing clamor for an end to the clashes. The Hindu radical group Bajrang Dal - Party Of The Strong And Stout - called a state-wide strike yesterday to express solidarity with those affected. The United Movement for Peoples Rights, an umbrella group comprising 30 organizations, announced a 12-hour strike today, in protest at the government’s alleged inability to control the unrest. M.O. Jacob, a Catholic aid worker in the area, has claimed that the clashes, along with strikes, roadblocks and curfews, are hindering relief efforts. Salesian Father Lukose Cheruvalel, who works among children in Guwahati, said his team was forced to cancel a mission into the affected areas because conditions made it impossible. Temporary camps have been set up to accommodate the displaced people, but Sister Jacoba, a Missionaries of Charity nun working among the victims, said relief workers are not able to reach them. Meanwhile, retired Protestant Bishop Nityanda Borgeory said officials at state and district levels have asked aid workers to help restore peace by promoting dialogue and counseling in the affected areas. In a meeting with members of the Joint Mission Peace Team,  Assam’s chief minister Tarun Gogoi urged them “to come forward and do relief work for peace and harmony.” But the bishop stressed that this would be no easy task. “People have become aggressive and some of them are not willing to forgive and forget,” he said. “They are disturbed and our work is at a standstill.” Related reports Assam sees renewed violence
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