Even as normal life across Assam came to a grinding halt due to a 12-hour bandh called by several organizations to protest and condemn the brutal killing of over 75 persons in the recent spate of violence carried out by the NDFB(S) faction, security forces on Friday intensified their operations, going all out against the militants.
In New Delhi, Army chief Dalbir Singh announced deployment of 66 columns of troops in northern Assam in order to intensify operations, while troops of other central armed police forces like the CRPF, ITBP, and SSB also fanned out especially to areas along the Indo-Bhutan international border and the Assam-Arunachal inter-state boundary.
Though no fresh incident of violence was reported since Thursday, police recovered a couple of bodies in Kokrajhar district, taking the death toll in the recent violence to 75. Three persons were killed when police opened fire in Dhekiajuli on Wednesday to disperse protesters who had turned into a mob.
Panic-stricken villagers however continued to flee their homes to seek shelter in safe places, with the number rising to more than 80,000 Friday. In Kokrajhar district alone, over 75,000 people have left their villages and taken shelter in schools, clubs and other places closer to highways and police stations.
Kokrajhar deputy commissioner Thaneswar Malakar said the authorities have opened 53 relief camps in the district, 26 of them in the Gosaigaon sub-division and 27 in Kokrajhar sub-division. “The people have fled their homes out of panic,” the deputy commissioner said.
Over 7,500 people are lodged in camps in Sonitpur district. The people include members from both Adivasi as well as Bodo communities. At least 30 people were killed in Kokrajhar and 40 in Sonitpur, most of them Adivasis, in Tuesday’s attack by the NDFB(S).
Meanwhile, the army is carrying out intensive area domination of the violence-affected areas to stabilize the situation and infuse a sense of confidence and security among the people. Guwahati Defence PRO Lt Col Suneet Newton said Commanders located in different districts were keeping a close watch on the ground situation and sending out troops to the interior areas.
In Kokrajhar, a peace committee was constituted on Friday by the district authorities, with leaders of student bodies and socio-cultural and literary organizations of both Bodo and Adivasi communities in order to create confidence among the people. A delegation of the committee also visited some of the camps.
A 12-hour bandh on the other hand crippled normal life, with protesters blocking highways and railway tracks, in the process causing damage to a number of government and private vehicles including oil tankers. Over 200 protesters were also arrested during the day. Normal life in Guwahati was disrupted too.
Several organizations on Friday also took out silent processions, while some groups sat on day-long dharna demanding immediate arrest and stringent punishment to the culprits. In Guwahati, leaders of 10 different organizations representing Adivasi, Bodo and other ethnic communities met under the auspices of the All Assam Students’ Union and All Bodo Students’ Union, and complained that the state government had lost its existence. A delegation of the groups later also met state governor PB Acharya and demanded immediate his intervention.