The Adivasi settlers in western and northern Assam, who are mostly Christians, were targeted by the tribal militants on December 23 evening killing over 75 including women and minor children.
The Assam police suspect it’s a handiwork of breakaway faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), which opposes peace talks with the Union government in New Delhi. Led by IK Songbijit, the banned outfit is termed responsible for the killing of hundreds non-tribal residents of the locality which is locally ruled by the Bodoland Territorial Council.
On the fateful evening, armed cadres belonged to NDFB (Songbijit faction) targeted the Adivasi villagers in various locations and started indiscriminate firing, when most of the victim families were preparing for the Holy Christmas.
Sonitpur district of Assam which is adjacent to Arunachal Pradesh witnessed more casualties where around 50 villagers fall prey to terrorists’ random firings. The armed rebels, who ware Army camouflage attires attacked the residents of Phulbari, Batasipur, Maitalu and Jungle basti localities. Killing spree was also witnessed in Serfanguri and Ultapani localities of Kokrajhar district on the same evening. Few people were killed in Chirang district too.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh have separately condemned the incident of killing innocent people in Assam.
Prime Minister Modi twitted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased.” The Prime Minister sanctioned ex-gratia of rupees two lakhs each to the next of kin of the deceased and rupees 50,000 to the seriously injured persons. The Union home minister asserted that the killing innocent people for any cause can never be justified. He informed that 5,000 paramilitary personnel were already sent to Assam for assisting the local forces for maintaining the law and order situation.
Assam police chief Khagen Sarma, while talking to the media persons admitted that his department had the inputs of probable attacks by the NDFB (Songbijit) cadres to retaliate the loss of many cadres in recent encounters with the security forces.
The militant group, which is demanding a sovereign land for Bodo people, issued a press statement recently to warn the government against the ongoing counter-insurgency operations targeting their members.
Earlier Assam government chief Tarun Gogoi strongly condemned the killing of innocent people and warned that he would never tolerate the terror activities by the militants.
As Assam was put on red alert, the concerned authorities clamped indefinite curfew in various parts of Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts. Various civil society groups including All Assam Students Union, Assam Adivasi Students Association, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity etc demonstrated their angers against the militants and also the government. In an unfortunate incident on December 24, three protesters were killed in police firing in Dhekiajuli, where thousands of Adivasi people came to the streets demanding actions against the militants. The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) also condemned the massacre of Adivasi people, who migrated to Assam from the central Indian localities centuries back, saying that it was a ‘stark reminder that India is no less vulnerable than Pakistan’.
“Regrettably even after such repeated massacres of the innocent civilians in Assam, in the past, neither First Information Reports have been registered nor accountability for the responsibility of commanders and the superiors of those involved in these heinous crimes has been established by the government,” said Suhas Chakma, the director of ACHR.
Meanwhile, the Manas National Park authority was closed the forest reserve for tourists until further notices as the combing operations against the tribal militants started inside the park. The security forces suspected that a group of around 20 armed NDFB (Songbijit) rebels sneaked to the park, which is adjacent to south Bhutan and a popular tourist spot in lower Assam. —NJ Thakuria from Guwahati