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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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Assam seeks 4,000 troopers as attacks cause panic
May 16, 2007 - 3:23:13 PM
Since peace talks collapsed between New Delhi and the rebels last September, Assam has witnessed a series of deadly attacks that the authorities have blamed on the ULFA.

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[RxPG] Guwahati, May 16 - Assam Wednesday asked the centre to rush 4,000 paramilitary troopers for anti-insurgency operations after rebels overnight gunned down five migrant workers, spreading panic in the Hindi-speaking community.

'We have asked the central government to immediately send 40 companies - of the Central Reserve Police Force - to the state so that we can deploy the forces in vulnerable areas,' Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists.

New Delhi had pulled out 40 CRPF companies from Assam last month and deployed them in Uttar Pradesh during assembly elections.

'There is a shortage of police and other paramilitary forces in Assam and with militants striking at soft targets we are in desperate need of additional security personnel to deal with the rise in insurgency,' the chief minister said.

Four daily wage earners were gunned down near Belbari village in Dibrugarh district, about 470 km east of Assam's main city of Guwahati, Tuesday night. Another person was shot dead in Borhat in adjoining Sivasagar district and his son critically wounded in the attack.

The government has announced a massive military crackdown after the fresh attacks.

'We are taking some very strong anti-insurgency steps with security forces put on a state of high alert across Assam with army, police and paramilitary troopers deployed in vulnerable areas,' Gogoi said.

'We are committed to protecting lives and ensuring security for everybody,' the chief minister said.

Police have blamed the United Liberation Front of Asom - for the fresh attacks on Hindi-speaking workers, most of whom are from Bihar and have made Assam their home for decades, doing odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishermen and daily wage earners.

Tuesday's attacks came after four people were killed on Sunday in clashes between indigenous Assamese and tribal tea plantation workers in eastern Assam over blocking a national highway to protest the death of a youth in an alleged staged shootout by the army. The plantation workers clashed with the anti-army protestors saying the roadblock had led to a shortage of food supplies to the gardens.

Two people were killed on Monday in a bomb blast set off by the rebels at a market in Guwahati.

The ULFA, which is fighting for a separate Assamese homeland and demanding the expulsion of all non-Assamese people, especially those from the Hindi-speaking northern belt of India, had killed about 60 migrant workers in January in a wave of attacks. The attacks have triggered fear and panic among hundreds of Hindi speakers in Assam.

'People are panicking and there is a fear of more such attacks. We are really worried for our lives. We have been residing in Assam for decades, but now we don't know whether to stay put or flee to safer areas,' said Mohan Singh, a grocer in Tengakhat town in Dibrugarh district.

Hariprasad Gupta, a trader in Tinsukia district, said of Tuesday's incidents: 'The attacks were reminiscent of the one we saw in January.'

Both Singh and Gupta originally hail from Bihar.

The killings in January prompted New Delhi to launch a massive military offensive in which about 60 ULFA rebels were killed and about 570 arrested in separate raids so far.

Since peace talks collapsed between New Delhi and the rebels last September, Assam has witnessed a series of deadly attacks that the authorities have blamed on the ULFA.

In 2000, the outfit killed at least 100 Hindi-speaking people in a series of attacks after vowing to free the state of 'non-Assamese migrant workers' who they say take away their jobs.

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