NEW DELHI : Despite the deployment of 50 columns of the Army and 66 companies of paramilitary forces along with thousands of state police personnel to launch an all out operation against the NDFB(S) militants who massacred innocent Adivasis on December 23, the Centre has once again extended Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA),1958 to the entire state of Assam for another year.

Interestingly, the Central government’s decision to extend the “disturbed area” status to the entire state and also to the area falling within 20 km of the inter-state border of Assam in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh came much before the Bodo militants attacked innocent Adivasis- the government’s order was dated November 4, 2014.

The official communique informing this development read “The Government of India extended and issued the notification after due consideration of the law and order situation in the state of Assam due to the violent incidents caused by the underground outfits viz ULFA(I), NDFB(S) and the border areas of the state of Assam by underground outfits like GNLA, KPLT, UALA, ULFA(I), NDFB(S), NSCN(IM) and NSCN(K)”.

Meanwhile, the death toll resulting from the violence in the state rose to 81 with one more body recovered in Kokrajhar by the police.

However, the people taking shelter in the relief camps continue to decrease and there is a hike in the number of camp inmates returning to their villages.

On Saturday, more than 25,000 inmates of relief camps left for their homes which brought down significantly the number of people living as refugees in their own homes.

Presently, the total number of camp inmates has been reduced to 1.82 lakh , while the number of relief camps have also come down to 103 following closing down of 13 more camps on Saturday.

Moreover, around 1,000 people who had fled to the neighbouring state of Arunachal Pradesh were brought back to Assam and provide shelter in the relief camps in Sonitpur district.

The state government is also trying to bring back the villagers who had ran away to West Bengal during the violence in pursuit of safety.

Confirming that the situation is improving, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said “the overall situation is fast improving and it is returning to normalcy. People are going back to their homes”, however adding that three persons are still missing since the militants mowed down the innocent villagers on December 23.

Gogoi, praising the action by the security forces, also said “the Central forces acted in close coordination with the State government agencies and this has helped ease things and prevented communal flare-ups in the aftermath of the NDFB (S) carnage. I appreciate the Centre’s response, and the common people in the affected areas, too, played no less a significant role in preventing communal violence despite there being provocations”.

On the other hand, a group of seven opposition political parties staged a sit-in demonstration at the Lakhidhar Bora Kshetra, Guwahati on Saturday in support of their demand for adequate supply of relief materials, providing security and proper rehabilitation to those taking shelter in refugee camps after the recent violence in Sonitpur and BTAD areas.

The demonstrating parties which included AGP, CPI, CPI-M, CPI-ML, NCP, Samajwadi Party and UPF also strongly criticised the State Government for its failure to check the violent incidents, at an impromptu meeting held at the demonstration.

Meanwhile, Assam Police has registered 102 cases over the recent carnage carried out by Bodo militants and also arrested 58 people in connection with the violence.

The National Investigating Agency (NIA) has also started investigating the attacks with some senior officials of NIA visiting the state on Saturday.

It has already registered four cases in addition to constituting four teams of officers to investigate the cases.

Further, the Director General of NIA Sharad Kumar is also scheduled to visit Assam on January 6.