The Bodo dominated Kokrajhar district has witnessed a series of ethnic conflicts in the past. The recent attack, suspected to be the handiwork of NDFB(S), aims to derail the development process initiated by the BJP Government in Assam
Assam, a land of ethnic rebellion for decades, witnessed a new kind of terrorism in Kokrajhar on August 5, when armed terrorists open-fired and lobbed grenade over civilians in broad day light. The massacre left 14 civilians dead excluding a terrorist identified as Manjay Islari alias Mwdan and over 25 wounded.
According to police, a group of three-four terrorists arrived at the location in afternoon of the fateful Friday and started indiscriminately firing over the market crowd. Though the security personnel succeeded in neutralising one terrorist on the spot, the rest of other suspected gunmen could flee. Assam police chief Mukesh Sahay termed it a handiwork of banned National Democratic Front of Bodoland (IK Songbijit faction), though the character of the terror attacks was different from their earlier disruptive activities. He declared that a massive combing operation was launched to find out the fled culprits.
Guwahati based defence public relation office also echoed the same version saying that ‘the Army had launched a massive combing operation, pressing into service specialised troops, tracker dogs and other specialised equipment’ in the locality.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was in New Delhi at that moment, immediately condemned the dastardly attack over civilians by the terrorists in Kokrajhar and reiterated his government’s commitment to protect the lives and properties of the people of the State.
Sonowal also spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to apprise them about the situation. He also directed responsible officers to rush to the location and take appropriate actions against the terrorists. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, while commenting over the incident said that Kokrajhar terror attack was very unfortunate and shocking. He however declared that the people behind the attack would be punished under the law.
The State witnessed another massacre in December 2014 when the armed militants belonging to NDFB (S) killed 76 Vanvasis in a series of attacks. The counter insurgency operations were beefed up following the incident which resulted in neutralising many hardcore NDFB(S) militants and capturing dozens in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District areas.
CM Sonowal visited Kokrajhar on August 7 to take stock of the situation and also chaired a strategy meeting of the Unified Command at Kokrajhar circuit house. Asking the security forces to deal with the violence strictly, Sonowal commented that ‘vigil should be stepped up to foil the sinister designs of anti-national forces’.
Maintaining that his government’s zero tolerance approach towards terrorism would continue and his government is ‘fully committed towards protecting life & property of the people’. He also appealed to the people to remain alert to nip in the bud the nefarious designs of the separatist elements and to maintain peace and harmony at any cost.
The Chief Minister initiated to distribute an ex-gratia of Rs five lakh to the close relatives of the deceased, rupees one lakh for those who sustained major wounds and rupees 20,000 to those who received minor injuries. At the same time, he assured free medical treatments to each and every injured individual in the incident.
President Pranab Mukherjee, PM Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi everyone condemned the incident in strongest words and extended condolences to the victims’ families. Describing the attack as mindless and dastardly act, they insisted on identifying the perpetrators at the earliest and punishing them subsequently. A team of National Investigation Agency also visited the site of the massacre to collect valuable evidences.
Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) recently issued a notice to the Government at Dispur for conducting a high level probe into the Kokrajhar (Balajan) massacre and submitting the report within four weeks. The AHRC directive asked the State Chief Secretary to conduct the enquiry by a committee comprising three members headed by a retired judge of high court with two from the police and civil society groups. “The Committee should inquire into the circumstances leading to the killings to find out lapse and laxity, if any, by the district administration and/or the state and to fix responsibilities on the authority or person(s) found to be involved in alleged negligence in protecting human rights violation of people in general and the affected individuals in particular in BTAD areas,” said AHRC’s order.
Amazingly, the NDFB(S) not only denied its involvement in the Balajan incident, but also condemned the open firing over civilians and demanded to track down the culprits. President of NDFB(S) B Saoraigwra, in a media statement, expressed deep sorrow and condolences to those who lost their lives and relatives.
The banned outfit also criticised BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary and Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for their accusation that NDFB(S) cadres were involved in the incident. Rather it argued that both Mohilary and Sarma were indirectly involved with the incident, as they came to know about the massacre within few minutes after it took place.
Earlier Hindu Yuva Chatra Parishad (HYCP) came out with a statement that the ‘involvement of Jehadi elements in the Balajan attack cannot be ruled out’ and hence the instant claim made by Assam police personnel regarding the involvement of NDFB(S) cadres in the gruesome attack was not acceptable to them. The organisation pointed out that the modus-operandi and style of the attack were similar to those of Jehadi terrorists, and hence it could be the handiwork of Islamist militants.