The situation in Tinsukia district in upper Assam continued to remain tense on Friday following an attack by suspected anti-talk ULFA militants in a village that had left two persons dead and five injured. All the victims belonged to families of Hindi-speaking settlers the previous night. Though operations by the police and Army have been intensified in the entire belt, no arrests have been made so far.
In yet another incident, Ratul Gogoi, a constable of the Assam Police Battalion was killed and another injured when armed militants suspected to be from the Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) fired at the Rongbongwe police station in Karbi Anglong district late Friday night.
“We have intensified the operations following Friday night’s attack. It is clearly the handiwork of the anti-talk faction of ULFA,” Eastern Assam DIG BP Rabha said from Tinsukia over the telephone on Saturday evening. The attack took place even after police had inputs that a group of ULFA faction had sneaked in from Myanmar to strike during the run-up to Independence Day. The anti-talk faction of ULFA is headed by Paresh Barua who operates from somewhere on the Myanmar-China border.
Friday night’s attack, in which four to five heavily armed militants were involved, took place in village Bamunbari under Philobari police station in Tinsukia district, had left two persons dead. The victims are Kishori Shah (65) and his son Rajesh Shah (35), whose family is among several hundred Bihari-origin settlers in the district for over 100 years now.
Several hundred members of the Hindi-speaking community on Saturday came out in large numbers to Doomdooma, the nearest town, organized a spontaneous protest and also blocked the National Highway 715 for several hours demanding adequate security for the people. They also refused to take the bodies of the two deceased for cremation until Chief Minister Sabananda Sonowal himself did not visit the place.
Sonowal, however, dispatched agriculture minister Atul Bora and labour minister Pallab Lochan Das to visit the village and listen to the grievances of the people, and directed the police to step up security in the entire district.
“Our people, who have been settled here for over a century now, have been repeatedly targeted by the ULFA for nearly two decades now. On July 15 last year they attacked a family in Bijuliban, another village in the same area, and killed an elderly shopkeeper and his 18 year-old daughter,” Nagendra Chauhan, president of the All Assam Bhojpuri Yuva-Chatra Parishad told The Indian Express over the telephone from Tinsukia.
Meanwhile, Assam Police Special Director General RM Singh on Saturday evening held a high-level security meeting with senior Army officers in Tinsukia, during which a fresh strategy was drawn up to tackle the renewed ULFA menace in the district. The meeting was also attended by state commissioner and secretary (Home) and other senior Army and police officers.
Assam has about 20 lakh Hindi-speaking population, with Tinsukia district alone having 15,000 families with roots in Bihar and UP, spread over 300 of the district’s 1,100 villages. Tinsukia is also home to about 4,000 Marwari families, many of them permanent residents of interior villages, living side by side with families that are ethnically Assamese — like the Ahoms, Morans and Mataks, apart from tea plantation labourers whose roots are in the Chotanagpur region that is spread six states, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.