She was shot twice in the back. As she fell forward, one of the men came to the front and fired twice again, at her breasts. The third shoved the barrel of his gun into her mouth and fired. Shot nine times, by four men, 16-year-old Priya Basumatary lay bleeding for 24 hours before her body was removed.
Priya’s father Niron was threatened to make sure he didn’t look away. Her mother Nirola who tried to save Priya was beaten up and fainted. Priya’s elder sister Arkhila was spared because she pleaded that she was married and hence belonged to another village. Her neighbours were threatened to not intervene.
Her younger sister Lakshmi, a Class V student, escaped by managing to flee from the back door.
Priya’s fault, according to the much-dreaded and outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)’s Songbijit faction, was that she was a “police informer”. Five cadres of the NDFB (S) faction had been killed earlier that day on August 20 by security forces, and the outfit blamed Priya for it.
There is nothing to suggest this was the case, but in the remote Dwimuguri village inside the Chirang reserved forest, close to the Indo-Bhutan border in western Assam, the protests of her or her parents meant little.
Priya was dragged out, severely thrashed and then shot. Before leaving, the heavily armed NDFB (S) men, including its ‘deputy army chief’ G Bidai, also warned the villagers not to touch her body or they would meet the same fate. The whole episode was recorded on a video camera, and a clip later released to local TV news channels.
Nirola says Priya and she had gone to wash clothes and take bath in a nearby stream in the afternoon of August 20. When they returned home, they found three-four armed youths in their front yard. “One of them grabbed Priya by the arm, snatched her mobile phone and started accusing her of working as a police informer. They began thrashing her with a piece of bamboo. When I tried to save her, they beat me up and flung me aside,” says an injured Nirola, speaking from a hospital bed in Bongaigaon.
Nirola fainted and can’t recall what happened later. However, Niron, who rushed home from where was tending his cows in the field, was made to watch all that his daughter was put through for the next 20-30 minutes.
“They beat me up and dragged Priya to the open field. A large number of villagers had assembled there. They made both of us kneel. One of the militants announced they were going to punish Priya for being an informer. Another one lifted my head with the butt of a gun and said, ‘See what we are going to do to your daughter now’,” says Nirola. “I sat there like a dead man. Other people also simply continued…
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