Assam riots could be prevented: Rights body

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) Tuesday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order an inquiry into why the army was not deployed in the riot-affected areas of Assam.

The rights body also demanded fixing responsibility and taking necessary measures, including disciplinary action for criminal dereliction of duty by the army.

ACHR director Suhas Chakma said this here Tuesday while releasing the rights panel’s report on the recent communal violence in Assam that killed over 90 people and displaced about four lakh people in the state’s three districts – Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri.

The human rights body also recommended development of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to make the chief minister the chairman of the unified command.

ACHR also sought deployment of the army on the chief minister’s instruction without any sanction from the ministry of defence in cases of riots or natural calamities.

ACHR also urged the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to take measures to stop illegal immigration and raise the issue with the government of Bangladesh.

“The recent riots in Assam were absolutely preventable but not prevented because of the criminal dereliction of duty by officials starting from the officer-in-charge of Kokrajhar police station to the highest authorities of India’s military establishment: secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Chief of Army Staff, Director General Military Operations and the commander of the Eastern Command,” Chakma said.

He added that the Assam government also failed to deploy its 27,595 state armed police in the riot affected areas.

Chakma said the Assam government also did not deploy the central para-military forces at its command and instead waited for the central government to instruct West Bengal and Meghalaya to send para-military forces.

He also pointed out that the refusal of the army to be deployed directly led to increased loss of lives, displacement and consequent spread of hatred in the country.

Chakma urged the government to provide aid to people displaced by the riots. He wanted the financial aid to be the same as is being given to the Sri Lankan displaced Tamils (Rs.4.95 lakh housing assistance).

The ACHR director also charged the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) for distorting and misinterpreting facts that caused the riots.

NCM, in its report, had accused Bodos for the riots by stating that “Bodos need to be told firmly that they cannot under any circumstances engineer a mass exodus of non-Bodos. Nor would they ever get statehood this way”.

The human rights body also urged the implementation of Chapter X of the Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886, relating to protection of tribal land and take measures to restore the tribal lands encroached by non-tribals.

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