Police believe the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) militant group, reduced to 10-12 men operating from adjoining Bhutan, had sent a lone gunman to strike at soft targets for reviving its “extortion industry”.
The outfit, however, denied its hand in Friday’s killing of 14 people at a weekly market near Kokrajhar, the headquarters of a tribal council, 236km west of Guwahati.
The gunman, identified as Mwdwn alias Manjay Islary, went on a shooting spree for more than 30 minutes. Security forces felled him after he killed 14 people of different ethnicities, including the ethnic Bodos, in the council that has had a history of communal clashes.
“NDFB(S)’s denial is typical of extremist groups when they end up killing people of their own community,” director general of police Mukesh Sahay told Hindustan Times.
The outfit, led by Ingti Kathar Songbijit — not a Bodo, but a Karbi tribal — wants to cleanse the areas inhabited by Bodos of non-Bodos. The group seeks secession of Bodo-inhabited areas, which it feels is a better deal than the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) that its disbanded rival, Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT), got.
Inspector general of police LR Bishnoi said Songbijit — believed to be in Myanmar with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) – ceases to be in control.
“The group is being commanded by G Bidai and Batha, who are operating from Bhutan and have at most 10 men.”
The NDFB(S)’s desperation stems from reverses it suffered since massacring 78 Adivsais in December 2014, Sahay said. Police data say 40 members of the group were killed, and more than 300 arrested till this month.
“This could be a revenge killing, possibly timed with August 15, around which extremists tend to step up their activities. But it appears they are choosing soft targets to strike fear for extortion because the rebels are running short of money,” Sahay said.
The outfit, also running out of support, has been targeting impressionable minors to train for random terror strikes. “Our men have so far prevented the outfit’s agents from smuggling 100 teenagers, many of them girls aged 16-17 years, in the past few months,” Sahay said.
Four teenagers were rescued from Chirang district this month, from a spot between Friday’s massacre spot and Bhutan border 45km away.