India troops patrol Assam state as violence flares

WASBIR HUSSAIN
View photos
Police stop activists of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Gauhati, Assam, India, as they protest against the ongoing violence in Golaghat town in the state, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. Army troops enforced a curfew in border districts of India's remote northeastern Assam state Thursday following violence that has left more than a dozen dead and over 10,000 people displaced. Placard in center in Assamese reads, “Down with Congress government”(AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

GAUHATI, India (AP) — Army troops enforced a curfew in border districts of India's remote northeastern Assam state Thursday after 12 people were killed and 10,000 were displaced in a flare-up of interstate violence.

Shops and businesses were closed in Golaghat town, where three people were killed after police opened fire to quell protests over attacks by tribespeople from neighboring Nagaland state, Assam's Home Secretary G. D. Tripathy said.

Tripathy said the Naga tribespeople had killed nine Assamese villagers last week in a flare-up of a long-running dispute over poorly defined state borders.

More than 10,000 people in Assam have fled their homes and are living in relief camps, he said.

Over the weekend, several groups in Assam blocked roads to prevent trucks carrying essential goods from entering Nagaland. As the blockade continued for four days, authorities in Assam ordered police and paramilitary units to disperse the protesters and clear the roads.

The action triggered widespread protests with people coming out in large numbers with sticks and stones, Tripathy said. Police opened fire several times to disperse the mob on Tuesday and Wednesday, killing three protesters and injuring at least 14 others.

The deaths sparked public outrage, prompting authorities to call out the army and impose a curfew in Golaghat and nearby areas.

Tripathy said the Assam government ordered an inquiry into the police dispersal and suspended a policeman.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought a report on the violence from the chief ministers of Assam and Nagaland. Also, the junior minister for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, was visiting Assam on Thursday for talks with officials from the two states to review the situation.

Parts of the border between Assam and Nagaland states have been disputed for more than three decades. The matter is awaiting a decision from India's Supreme Court. The dispute has led to several bouts of violence in the past in which at least 100 people have been killed.