GUWAHATI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Hundreds of Indian villagers have fled their homes and taken refuge in government relief camps in the northeastern state of Assam after tribal clashes killed at least 16 people, police and officials said on Thursday.
Tension between the Karbi and Rengma Naga communities, who inhabit the border area between the states of Assam and Nagaland, erupted in late December when a Karbi militant group was accused of killing some Rengma Nagas.
Retaliatory violence between the two groups followed, despite the imposition of a curfew in the area.
Over the weekend, the bodies of nine Karbis were found with gunshot wounds and their hands tied behind their back 25 km (9 miles) from Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland state - triggering fears of more bloodshed between the two tribes, members of which have fled across the border into Assam.
Police from the two states said they were probing the cause of the conflict. The Karbis and the Rengma Nagas were among the first settlers in the region, and there is no history of violence between them.
"Security had been increased in ... Dimapur because a lot of Karbis live here," said V.Z. Angami, Dimapur’s police chief.
Numerous violent insurgencies have beset remote northeast India for decades and at least 50,000 people have been killed there since independence in 1947.
Some conflicts are campaigns for autonomy - for an entire state, a district or a tribal homeland - while others are clashes between numerous indigenous tribes, often over access to land.
(Writing by Nita Bhalla)