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Thousands flee deadly violence in northeast India

About 10,000 people have fled their homes in northeast India as violence surged over a border dispute that has left some 15 people dead, officials said on Thursday (Aug 21).

GUWAHATI: About 10,000 people have fled their homes in northeast India as violence surged over a border dispute that has left some 15 people dead, officials said on Thursday (Aug 21).

Residents of remote Assam have sought shelter in makeshift camps set up by the state government after gunmen from neighbouring Nagaland launched attacks from across the border, a top official said. "About 10,000 people were rendered homeless after unidentified gunmen from the Nagaland side attacked Assam villagers and set ablaze hundreds of houses forcing them to flee," Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters in Assam's main city of Guwahati.

Gogoi held crisis talks with his Nagaland counterpart and national junior home minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday over the violence which erupted between the villagers earlier this month. Clashes have erupted periodically between residents of villages straddling the two states over grabbing land along the border, since the creation of Nagaland in the 1960s.

Police fired on Wednesday on hundreds of angry protesters demonstrating in Assam's Golaghat district against perceived government inaction over the violence, leaving three people dead.


Scheduled caste activists shout slogans in Gauhati, Assam, as they protest against the ongoing violence in Golaghat town in the state. (AP/Anupam Nath)

"A violent mob numbering about 4,000 armed with crude implements were on a rampage," Assam police chief Khagen Sharma said. "To control we first resorted to baton charge, tear gas shelling, and finally opened fire in which three people were killed," he told reporters, adding that about a dozen others were injured.

The initial violence started on Aug 12 when the Nagaland villagers allegedly attacked the Assamese who retaliated, with clashes leaving some 12 people dead, an Assamese students' group said. "We have confirmed reports of 12 deaths so far in the Aug 12 incident and have their names and other details although the government is putting the death toll at nine," Monowar Hussain, leader of the All Assam Students' Union, told AFP.

Protests were again reported on Thursday in Assam over the violence, as villagers defied a curfew imposed by authorites and demonstrated in Golaghat district, about 300 kilometres (180 miles) from Guwahati.

With tensions running high, home minister Rijiju urged both sides to work together to end the bloodshed. "The central government is ready to provide additional security reinforcements to control the situation and I have asked both chief ministers to work out a joint mechanism to settle the long standing border dispute the two states have," Rijiju told AFP after the meeting. "This land dispute needs to be resolved and we must ensure that no more bloodshed is there in the area," he said. 

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