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More Than 50 Dead In Indian Violence

A second day of bloodshed in India's restive northeast took at least 21 lives Saturday, including 13 migrant workers shot while they slept and eight government employees killed by a land mine explosion.

On Friday, a series of attacks by suspected separatist rebels killed 35 other migrants and wounded at least 19 in Assam state's tea-growing districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh, officials said.

The attacks were the worst violence in the region in years and widely seen as an attempt by the insurgents to boost waning support among the impoverished area's indigenous peoples and to force the government to resume peace talks.

Most of the casualties over the two days were poor, Hindi-speaking migrant workers, R.N. Mathur, police chief for Assam, told the Associated Press.

Migrants are frequently attacked by rebels of the United Liberation Front of Asom in an effort to draw national attention to their demands for independence for ethnic Assamese. At least 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the rebellion began in 1979.

The latest violence appeared to have done that. The federal Home Ministry called a high level meeting in New Delhi, the capital, on Saturday, and the country's junior home minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, planned to visit Assam on Sunday.

But officials insisted the government would not be forced back to the negotiating table.

The deadliest incident was the slaying of 13 workers while they slept before dawn Saturday in Sadiya, a town 370 miles east of Assam's capital, Gauhati, local administrative officer Absar Hazarika said.

Mathur said the 35 workers killed Friday died in a series of attacks in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh. Those districts remain insurgent strongholds despite a decrease in popular support for the rebels the last few years as violence killed locals and migrants alike.

Also on Saturday, a land mine killed five policemen and three government officials returning from supervising a local election in Assam's Karbi Anglong district. Police did not immediately lay blame for the attack.

A bomb also exploded on an express train running from New Delhi to Dibrugarh without causing any injuries, but officials said they were not sure if rebels were involved.

The United Liberation Front of Asom did not claim responsibility for any of the attacks, but rebel leaders don't usually comment on such incidents.

The group has stepped up violence since India's government called off a six-week truce in September and resumed military offensives. A second group, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, is fighting for autonomy for ethnic Bodo, a tiny minority in Assam's 26 million people.

India's entire northeast is very poor with widespread unemployment, and bitterness toward the central government has spawned dozens of extremist groups in Assam and the region's six other states.

The militants say the central government in New Delhi, 1,000 miles to the west, exploits the northeast's natural resources while doing little for its indigenous peoples, most of whom are ethnically closer to Burma and China than to the rest of India.

The violence is an attempt "to cash in on the popular anti-outsider feeling among the masses who are agitated over the fact that up to two million people in Assam are without jobs," said Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.

Despite the high unemployment, many Assamese prefer their traditional lifestyle as small farmers rather than working in many of the menial jobs performed by migrants — making bricks and laboring in factories and mines.

The attacks come as Assam prepares to host next month's National Games, India's biggest sporting event. The United Liberation Front has urged spectators and competitors to boycott the games, but authorities insist they will not let the event be disrupted.

Kashmir Violence Erupts

Meanwhile in the northwest, in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, a grenade blast on a busy road killed two people and wounded 19 others, including five soldiers, on Saturday, police said.

Police said one civilian was killed when suspected Islamic militants
hurled a grenade hurled at an army patrol.

Police said a second civilian died later in hospital.

Civilians injured in the attack were rushed to Srinagar's main hospital,
where they were treated by medical staff.

Four people remain in a critical condition, police said.

The attack took place in the town of Shopian, 35 miles south of Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.

No other details were immediately available.

Over a dozen Islamic militant groups have been fighting Indian security forces in an attempt to gain independence for Muslim-majority Kashmir from predominantly Hindu India, or to merge the Himalayan territory with mostly Muslim Pakistan.