The Assam government has gone into an evacuation overdrive in Kokrajhar and adjoining districts, clearing areas which it suspects can be the next target of rioters running amok in the region.
Army personnel are guarding the sensitive areas where ethnic violence has claimed at least 50 lives so far, but the locals feel the measures are too little, too late for a conflict which has built up over the years.
K.K. Basumatary (62), a former station master whose house was burnt down by the rioters, is livid with the police and the politicians. "My family is alive but we have lost everything. We had requested the local police station and MLA Pradeep Brahma to send forces to guard our village but the MLA said the administration doesn't have enough police personnel. Instead, they escorted us to relief camps while these 'Bangladeshis' torched our homes the next day," Basumatary claimed.
Like Basumatary, many saw the crisis coming but not the state administration.
Tension started simmering when immigrants encroached upon forest land in Bedlangmari in Kokrajhar and put up a signboard, calling it an "Idgah". The forest officials, allegedly with the help of former militants of Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), dislodged it. In protest, the All Bodoland Minority Student Union (ABMSU) called a bandh in Kokrajhar district.
The situation worsened on July 6 when two members of ABMSU were shot dead by unidentified miscreants at Anthirpara. On July 19, a former head of the ABMSU and his colleague were shot at in Magurmari. The next day, a mob of immigrants lynched four former BLT members. An old temple of the Bodos was burnt down in Onthaibari. That was when Basumatary and many other Bodos in the villages adjacent to Bangladeshi settlements fled their homes, anticipating violent retaliation.
The riot has resulted in a huge movement of Bodos and immigrants between Kokrajhar, the Bodos' hub, and Dhuburi, a district dominated by the minorities.