The toll in the latest violence in the two Bodoland districts of Assam has risen to 31 with the recovery of two more bodies on Sunday. While the body of Mamiran Nessa, 35, was fished out from the Beki river two kilometres downstream from a village in Barpeta district, the body of Sahar Banu, 24, was recovered from Khagrabari ghat, not far from the village that was attacked on Friday.
Meanwhile, the last rites of 18 of the 20 who were killed in Khagrabari village on Friday evening were carried out on Sunday, in the presence of Assam Border Areas Development Minister Siddique Ahmed, who was specially deputed by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to assure the panic-stricken villagers that all measures were being taken to provide security.
But despite heavy deployment of security forces, including regular patrols by the Army, about 500 people from the adjoining villages, including the survivors of Khagrabari, took shelter in makeshift relief camps on Sunday.
While confirming this, State Home Secretary G D Tripathi, however, claimed the situation had returned to normal. “We are placing a police picket in the village in the next two days and arranging to set up a temporary shelter for the families there so that they can reconstruct their houses as soon as possible,” said Tripathi.
Khagrabari, where 53 of the 56 houses were burnt on Friday evening, had about 280 people. “Where do we go back? We have lost everything,” said Sobhan Ali, 29, whose family escaped the attack. “I was supposed to go and get my family from my in-laws’ house in Kalgachiya in Barpeta district in the morning itself. But I got delayed due to some work, and I finally left at around 4 pm. I had just crossed the river and reached Bhangarapar bazar when I heard gun shots and saw smoke rising from the village on the other side,” said Ali, whose grocery shop was gutted in the fire.
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Meanwhile, senior Bodoland People’s Front leader Chandan Brahma said the violence was not communal and was triggered by armed militants belonging to the NDFB(S) faction. Brahma, tourism minister in the Cong-BPF coalition in Assam, was the BPF candidate for the Kokrajhar Lok Sabha constituency.
“Some people, both within and outside the state, have been trying to give a communal colour to the violence. It is neither an ethnic clash nor a communal violence. Some militants have trained their guns on soft targets after they lost some cadres in an encounter with security forces earlier in the week. It will be wrong to describe the incidents as a communal outbreak or an ethnic clash,” said Brahma. He also dismissed allegations that that BPF was involved in the violence.