Protesters attack police as two Indian states fight over territory

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Thousands of protesters in the far-flung Indian state of Assam defied a curfew and attacked police in a fifth day of unrest over a territorial dispute with a neighbouring state.

Assam and the tiny state of Nagaland in north-eastern India have been claiming tracts of land along the state limits since the creation of Nagaland more than four decades ago.

Clashes have periodically erupted between people living in villages straddling the two states.

The latest wave of violence has left at least 20 dead and forced thousands to flee their homes, officials said.

On Thursday, residents of Assam’s worst-affected Golaghat district turned on the state police, saying it had failed to protect them from attacks by Naga tribesmen coming over the state borders.

Armed with stones and sticks, and even bows and arrows, demonstrators attacked policemen and vehicles, ignoring a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the authorities in the district, about 300 km (180 miles) from Assam’s main commercial city Guwahati.

“The situation in Assam is volatile and emotions are high among the people against the government for its failure to protect its people from Nagas,” said Akhil Gogoi, a protest leader in Guwahati.

India’s mountainous northeast is home to dozens of ethnic groups, many of whom are campaigning for greater autonomy, statehood or even secession.