Qurban Ali Khan claimed he has seen “all the riots” that have taken place in this part of the country since Partition. “I have been witness to so many incidents of violence that such gruesome sights of bodies of little children and elderly people lined up for burial no longer disturbs me,” said the 96-year-old resident of Raghabeel, a village inseparable from Khagrabari except for the Beki river that divides the two.
Thirteen of the 21 persons killed in the Khagrabari attack Friday evening were buried in the burial ground in Raghabeel Saturday with Khan standing among hundreds of mourners as the maulavi chanted from the Quran and relatives put lumps of earth in the graves.
“I have seen many incidents of violence, right from a riot that occurred immediately after Partition. The last was in July 1994 when more than 100 Muslims were massacred in a relief camp at Bansbari after Bodo militants attacked villages,” Khan said.
“That was during CM Hiteswar Saikia’s time. And the situation is no better this time with a Congress government headed by Tarun Gogoi in the state,” said Khan, a survivor of the 1994 massacre in which over 50 victims were from Raghabeel. “The Muslims have been at the receiving end every time there is some trouble in Assam. This has been so since the Nellie massacre of 1983,” said Khan.
In 1994, seven villages were almost entirely razed by Bodo militants. More than 30,000 Muslims were rendered homeless in a span of five days. When people were put in relief camps, the militants attacked the one at Bansbari and gunned down more than 100 of them.
“There was, however, no trouble in 1996 and 2012 when thousands of people were rendered homeless in Kokrajhar district,” said his son Md Raihan Ali, a farmer. “In the 2012 violence, two persons from our village lost their lives when they had gone to visit Kokrajhar.”
Ali blamed the government for the repeated attacks. “The government knows that we are the most vulnerable community. Look at this time. Everybody knew trouble would spark off any moment after the elections because the Muslims have, by and large, supported Naba Kumar Saraniya, a former ULFA leader in Kokrajhar. But the government did not take any measure,” he said.
“Our entire village was burnt in 1994 too. But that time only four people were killed,” said Dulal Ali of Khagrabari, who lost his wife in Friday’s massacre.
Thus, packing up whatever belonging they have and rushing to the main road or nearest police station seeking security has become a habit for many. “I lived in a relief camp in 1994 too,” said Rehana Khatun of Narayanguri village.
The government has moved in sizeable number of security personnel to Baksa as well as Kokrajhar and Chirang districts since violence broke out Thursday evening.
ADGP A P Rout said, “We have arrested 22 people so far.” Seven forest personnel have also been taken into custody after complaints of their involvement in the carnagein Khagrabari, Rout said.