Refugees flee ethnic violence in Myanmar
BIJNI - ReutersThe death toll from clashes between Bodo tribespeople and Muslim settlers has risen to 44, India’s northeastern state Assam’s chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, said after police reported finding more bodies overnight. Police also opened fire on groups armed with sticks and spears for violating a curfew.
Security forces tried to stamp out some of the worst communal violence in a decade with shoot-on-sight orders.
Fearing for their lives, tens of thousands of Muslims and Bodos have fled their homes in remote hamlets along the border with Bhutan, and sought shelter in camps in larger towns, yesterday. Roving armed bands have set ablaze hundreds of tin-roofed homes, many made of hay and clay, in the nearly week-long orgy of violence.
Gogoi said 200,000 people had been displaced by the fighting. The relief camp in a school in the town of Bijni is just one of nearly 60 hastily set up to cope with the flood of refugees, officials said.
Many of the camps lack food, water and security. Angry refugees surrounded a group of state lawmakers visiting the Bijni camp yesterday and demanded they take action.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in parliament’s upper house, may fly to the area on July 28, his office said.
Ringed by China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, India’s northeast is home to more than 200 ethnic and tribal groups and has been racked by separatist revolts since India’s independence from Britain in 1947.
In recent years, Hindu and Christian tribes have vented strong anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment against settlers from mostly Muslim Bangladesh, which neighbors Assam.