Kishore Basumatary saw death 10 metres away across the road from where he had spread out his wares at the weekly Balajan Tiniali market on Friday morning.
The killer had fired from his AK-56 rifle and killed a vegetable vendor, later identified as Salam Mandal, and had turned around to meet Kishore’s eyes.
The survivors of Friday’s militant attack , in which 14 people were killed, came face to face with death and recounted the horror of having bullets sprayed around them.
“I thought I would die, and hoping against hope, hid behind Dwimu Saloon,” 40-year-old Basumatary said. The militant gunned down salon owners Nibaran Machahary and Shuren but Basumatary survived.
Basumatary said he did not see the man police gunned down. He, however, did say that he will recognise the militant he had seen.
Prafulla Machahary, younger son of Shuren, said his father was the sole breadwinner who earned around Rs 150 daily. “I could not study, nor could I learn the haircutting trade from my father,” he said at New Haltugaon, about 4 km from the salon.
Closer to Balajan Tiniali, occasional vegetable vendor Tapan Chakraborty had chosen to skip Friday’s market for a change. But the shooting forced him out of his house because he wanted to fetch his granddaughter from school.
As luck would have it, the 60-year-old ran into the militant, who shot him in the chest. “My only consolation is that I could give him water before he died in my lap,” his wife Bina said.
Grocer Roshinath Sarma played dead in front of his shop to escape the gunman’s bullets. “The killer kept chasing and shooting at us, as we ran helter-skelter. It was as if he wanted to finish all his bullets on us,” he said.
Hagrama Mohilary, head of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), said those behind the attack will be brought to the book. “We will ensure that those behind the killings do not go unpunished,” he said.
Meanwhile, an NIA team scoured the attack site on Saturday and spoke to the witnesses. A combing operation was on to nab the militants of Bodo separatist outfit NDFB(S) suspected to be involved in the strike. Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal visited the Gauhati Medical College Hospital to inquire about the health of five people, who were seriously injured in the attack.