There seems to be no end to the bloodbath in Assam as seven more bodies have been found in Baksa district, taking the total death toll to 32 in the last 36 hours. This comes after suspected Bodoland militants killed at least 23 people in a span of 24 hours in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts of lower Assam.
Curfew has been clamped in all of Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang, three of the four districts of the Bodoland area, and on contiguous areas in neighbouring districts. The Army has carried out flag marches, and shoot-on-sight orders have been issued in Kokrajhar and Baksa. The state government has accused the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) of carrying out the killings. All the victims are migrant Muslims.
The government has denied any connection between the attacks and the Lok Sabha elections. However, one of the three massacres has taken place in a village that saw violence and the killing of a police constable as Kokrajhar went to polls on April 24. Around 7.30 pm on Thursday, militants shot dead two women and a man of a family in Narsingpara village in the Anandabazar police station area of Baksa district. The victims were identified as Shampa Bewa (55), Sona Miya (35) and Ramisa Khatun (32).
Some five hours later, between 12.30 am and 1 am on Friday, four militants armed with at least two AK series rifles opened indiscriminate fire in Balapara village in the Tulsibeel outpost area of Gossaigaon police station in Kokrajhar district. Four women, a man and three children belonging to two Muslim families were killed.
Late on Friday evening, 12 bodies were recovered in the villages of Narayanguri and Khagrabari adjoining each other on the fringes of Manas National Park in Baksa district, Assam home secretary G D Tripathi said. At least 10 people were injured, and several homes were reported to be on fire, he said.
Tripathi said curfew had been clamped on those police station areas of Dhubri, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Darrang and Sonitpur districts that lay adjacent to the Bodoland districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri. In Baksa district, groups of non-tribals were fleeing on Friday evening for fear of more attacks. “There have been reports of villagers belonging to a particular community leaving their villages seeking safety in adjoining villages in Baksa after the third incident that occurred at Narayanguri and another village,” ADG (Special Branch) Pallab Bhattacharyya said.
The attack in Balapara came at a time when most adult males have been staying away from their homes for fear of police, who have been looking for the killers of the constable at the polling booth on April 24. An angry mob set upon the policeman after complaints that the EVM was registering votes of only a particular candidate, no matter which button was pressed.
“Most of the menfolk were not in the village,” Tripathi told The Indian Express. Only one of those killed was male, 52-year-old Bachhu Ali. Two of the three children killed were girls. Other than Bachhu Ali, the victims have been identified as Meherban Bibi (41), Sayatan Bewa (40), Jelina Bibi (25), Suhana Parveen (22), Farida Begum (6), Sonabhan Khatun (2) and Jaminur Ali (3).
A group of BSF personnel had made a round of the village barely half an hour before the killers struck. “There were inputs that some NDFB(S) militants were coming into the area from the north. Accordingly, security forces had sanitized the area north of Balapara. But they attackers came from Dhubri district in the south,” Tripathi said.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who was to fly to Delhi and onward to Germany on Friday, cancelled the visit and reviewed the situation with top police, Army and intelligence officials. “I have directed the police to control the situation from flaring up,” Gogoi said after the meeting.
The opposition AGP and BJP said the government was responsible for the renewed violence in the Bodoland districts. “The state government is solely responsible. It has failed to protect lives and property of the common people despite repeated (intelligence) inputs,” AGP chief Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said.
The All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and Bodo Sahitya Sabha (BSS) too blamed the Gogoi government. “The common people today are insecure because the government has repeatedly failed to protect their lives,” Bodo Sahitya Sabha president Kameswar Brahma said. hitya Sabha president Kameswar Brahma said.