GUWAHATI: Indian authorities on Friday raced to provide help to hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in makeshift camps in the country's northeast after deadly ethnic unrest.
The chief minister of far-flung Assam state, Tarun Gogoi, said the region was now calm after some 45 people were killed and at least 200,000 forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in camps set up by the government.
"The situation has started improving," Gogoi told reporters in Assam's largest city Guwahati.
"The priority is provide relief and rehabilitate the people who are now sheltered in the camps."
His comments came as the national government dispatched medical teams to Assam where fighting broke out Friday last week between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers over long-running land disputes.
Victims were beaten to death with sticks and houses were burned by roving mobs.
Indian media quoted people in the camps as saying that they feared returning to their homes.
"We are living in fear and we can't even think about going back to our homes," one woman, Bimla Basumatary, told India's NDTV television network.
The chief minister described the violence as the worst crisis his government has faced.
Gogoi said the New Delhi government was to blame for the escalation in violence because it failed to send troops immediately after the unrest erupted.
"We didn't have adequate security forces" to restore peace, Gogoi said.
Now at least 3,000 extra soldiers and paramilitary personnel are patrolling the region.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the parliament's upper house, was due to tour the conflict-hit districts on Saturday.
Troops are under orders to "shoot-on-sight" anybody violating a curfew. AGENCIES