5 Oct 2008

Violent clashes between settlers and tribal people leave many dead

9:25 pm on 5 October 2008

At least 25 people were killed and thousands left homeless in ethnic violence between tribal people and settlers, many of whom were armed with bows and arrows.

Violence between the Bodo tribespeople and immigrant Muslims from Bangladesh broke out in the troubled northeast Indian state of Assam.

Villagers from both communities, armed with bows and arrows, machetes, spears, and guns targeted rivals. More than 50,000 have fled their homes to shelter in makeshift camps set up by police.

"Shoot-at-sight orders have been issued and curfew has been imposed in the violence-hit areas," Assam's chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, said.

Tribals in the state have often been at loggerheads with the Muslim settlers from Bangladesh who have settled on vacant land over the past few decades.

"The situation is very tense as miscreants are setting houses on fire and targeting people despite the presence of such a huge deployment of forces," a senior police officer said.

Authorities have called in army and paramilitary forces to control the violence that left more than 100 people wounded.

Ringed by China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, India's northeast is home to more than 200 tribes and has been racked by separatist revolts since the country won independence from Britain in 1947.