KOLKATA: An alert has been sounded in the seven Northern districts of West Bengal in the wake of the orgy of ethnic violence in Assam, even as thousands of refugees, mainly adivasis, crossed the state border on Friday seeking refuge in Alipurduar district.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal Adivasi Vikas Parishad has called for a 12-hour general strike on Saturday to protest against the ethnic carnage.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, who was in North Bengal on Friday, said, “The Assam violence is no less in magnitude compared to the terror attack in Peshawar. All refugees coming from Assam will be given shelter at relief camps in our state.”
Mamata is scheduled to visit two of the four refugee camps opened near Kumargaon in Alupurduar district on Saturday. The camps, barely 10 km from the inter-state border, are located at Changmari, Salbari, Haldibari and Balapara.
A majority of the refugees are sub alterns, several of whose relatives were killed in the carnage in Kokrajhar district of Assam.
The state government has directed the district administration to arrange for tarpaulin, blankets, food and medicines for the victims of the violence. Also, several families that work at the tea gardens in West Bengal are sheltering refugees from Kokrajhar.
The government camps are being stretched to the limits on account of the huge number of refugees pouring into the state from across the Assam border. The Army has beefed up security along the West Bengal-Assam border to ward off Bodo militants who failed to flee to Bhutan.
The NDFB(S) shares links with the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, a militant secessionist outfit active in the Northern districts of West Bengal.
And tension prevailed in several of West Bengal’s districts, which have a sizable adivasi population, in the aftermath of Assam violence. This is the second incident of large-scale violence in lower Assam this year, after the communal riot between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims in May, which left several people dead.
In 1998, there was an ethnic riot between the Bodos and adivasis, but for the last several years, the two tribal communities had co-existed peacefully. In spite of the skewed demographic composition and political polarisation, a non-Bodo, Naba Sarania, was elected from the Kokrajhar Lok Sabha constituency in May.