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Public anger erupts as ethnic clashes hit northeast India

At least 12 people have been killed in ethnic clashes between groups from the Assam and Nagaland provinces in northeast India, as public anger erupted against the administration and police.

INDIA: At least 12 people have been killed in northeast India after groups from the provinces of Assam and Nagaland clashed. The tensions in Golaghat started last week after armed insurgents, allegedly from Nagaland, killed at least nine people in seven villages along the border with Assam.

A joint mechanism has been devised to avoid future clashes, but nearly 10,000 villagers have now fled the region. A curfew in Golaghat was enforced, while the army conducted a flag march after a week of fierce clashes claimed lives and property.

The bloodshed is the latest violent chapter in the decades-old dispute over an area about the size of 20 football fields, called the Disputed Area Belt. Some villagers of Assam and adjoining Nagaland state have been fighting each other to gain control of that land, despite a temporary pact putting the disputed patch under the control of central forces and the Supreme Court backing a mediation process.

As Assam security forces tried to control the recent tension from spiralling out of control, public anger erupted against the administration and police. One protester said: "People of Nagaland attacked our Assamese people and police took action against us. We condemn this and that's why we burnt the effigy of our chief minister."

The dispute has turned political and grown into a flashpoint between the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled central government and Congress-led Assam. Tarun Gogoi, chief minister of Assam, said: "Centre (the central government) is not doing enough and as effectively as it could have."

Kiren Rijeju, junior home minister, said: "Central Police Reserve Force doesn't work independently. It works in conjunction with the state. And I think we should not get into all this blame game. We need to work together."

As the junior home minister met the chief ministers of Nagaland and Assam to diffuse the tension, there were incidents of ransacking and a highway blockade by Assam-based groups. For now, the situation remains under control despite the palpable tension. 

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