The violence in Assam took on an ethnic hue on Wednesday, a day after armed Bodo rebels gunned down more than 70 Adivasis and injured 15 in orchestrated attacks in different parts of the state.
Police officials said the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) — the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland — carried out the attacks in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts lasting about three hours on Tuesday evening. The militants killed 37 people in Sonitpur, and 27 in Kokrajhar, including 18 children and 21 women.
Three persons were killed in police firing on Wednesday morning when angry Adivasis, armed with bows and arrows, attacked police stations in Sonitpur. Three more were killed when an Adivasi mob attacked Bodo villages in Chirang district.
At least 250 people are reported missing in one of the bloodiest incidents of ethnic violence in the northeastern state, bringing back memories of 2012 when similar conflicts between Bodo tribal groups and Bengali-Muslims in Kokrajhar and neighbouring districts left about 100 people dead and over five lakh homeless.
Assam police chief Khagen Sarma said Tuesday’s attacks were in retaliation to security forces’ crackdown on several NDFB(S) members in recent times, adding the militants were operating from the jungles straddling Assam’s border with Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh.
However, analysts said the killings could also be attributed to the Bodos’ longstanding demand of a separate homeland since the 1980s. This time, most of the people killed are Christians.
Sources told HT the Intelligence Bureau had inputs about the attacks on Tuesday, which they shared with Assam police.
“The IB inputs were shared with all police, paramilitary units concerned immediately,” a Union home ministry official said, requesting anonymity.
The random strikes also made it difficult to assess the extent of the damage. “There are bodies littered everywhere,” an army officer said from Sonitpur district.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi condemned the attacks, saying the government would deal firmly with the militants. Curfew was clamped in the affected areas and security forces have been asked to launch a counter-offensive.
“We are trying to ease tension in these areas,” he said, admitting police had to fire on a mob in Sonitpur district to bring them under control.
Adivasi organisations, including the All Tea Tribe Students’ Association, called for a state-wide shutdown on Friday to protest the killings. The All Bodo Students’ Union and other Bodo organisations too condemned the killings and carried out protest rallies in Kokrajhar.
- With inputs from Rajesh Ahuja in Delhi
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