TURA, Jan 5 � The ongoing ethnic turmoil between the Garos and the Rabhas has taken an ugly turn with the killing of four persons in two separate incidents today even as more houses were torched in the Bajengdoba section while Mendipathar and Resubelpara regions remained tense but quiet.
A mob attacked a vehicle carrying 12 Rabha coal labourers at Gokulgre village, 13 km from Bajengdoba, and bludgeoned to death three of them while the others sustained grievous injuries. The labourers were heading towards Assam from the Tura route but had to turn back at Bajengdoba due to the escalating violence during the day.
On their return, they were stopped by an irate mob, dragged out of the vehicle and assaulted with rods, sticks, daggers and axes. They made a desperate attempt to flee across the nearby Didram river but the pursuing mob cut them down mercilessly.
When police arrived on the scene they found two bodies on the banks of the river while the rest were located from below a culvert and nearby shrubs and bushes. As the grievously injured were being taken to the primary health centre at Gokulgre village, one of the labourers died, pushing the casualty to three.
The other nine labourers are in crucial condition and have been immediately taken to Gauhati Medical College Hospital for treatment. The labourers had been working in the coal mines of Chokpot, South Garo Hills, and hail from Mendipathar, Manikganj and Assam.
On the same evening, one Garo youth was shot dead and two others sustained serious bullet injuries after Assam Police opened fire on a mob of several hundred Garo men who were reportedly trying to set ablaze houses belonging to the Rabha community at Daranggre, under Rongjuli police outpost.
Goalpara district superintendent of police, Luis Aind, informed that police had to resort to opening fire after the mob went on a rampage setting houses on fire in Rongjuli area.
The irate mob attacked the Rabha village after two Garo youths were grievously attacked at Daranggre market during the day time.
Meanwhile, in Bajengdoba, several hundred villagers from the Rabha community fled to the nearby Kukurkata police outpost and army camp after mobs went on the rampage setting their homes ablaze. The hamlets of Torika, Berubari, Darakona, Nebari and Rongketchi were completely razed to the ground by the arsonists.
There is some hope that the ongoing ethnic clash could be brought down with the Garo Students Union (GSU) and the Assam Rabha Students Union (ARSU) having successful talks at Goalpara circuit house on Wednesday afternoon. Both sides agreed that the violence needs to end and normalcy restored. It has been decided that the GSU will undertake a campaign in the Garo villages calling for an end to the violence and the ARSU on their part would do the same from their end in the Rabha villages.
A Correspondent adds from Goalpara: Meanwhile, as a part of the peace initiatives the district administartion today convened a meeting of the joint peace committee comprising of leaders of both the ethnic communities, including the Deputy Commissioner, East Garo Hills, Pravin Bakshi,the Superintendent of Police., East Garo Hills, the Deputy Commissioner Goalpara, the Superintendent of Police, Goalpara Luise Aind, Deputy Inspector General of Police Pratul Phukan (Western Range) and others to find ways for a peaceful solution to the conflict. A worrying factor has been the mass exodus of villagers from the Meghalaya area to safer places in Assam and to the relief camps.
Jibon Rabha, secretary, All Rabha Students Union, said that though there was simmering tension between the Rabhas and the Garos, the district and the police administration maintained a laxed attitude and woke up at the last moment when the law and order situation deteriorated to an unmanageable limit.
Meanwhile, according to a senior police official, additional police forces have been rushed to the district to tackle the situation.