Bodo militants gunned down at least 62 adivasis, including women and children, and injured several others in orchestrated attacks across two districts of Assam on Tuesday evening, police said.
The attackers belonged to the anti-talks National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) faction, according to police officials. All the victims were adivasis, who along with migrant Muslims have been the target of sectarian violence in areas sought under Bodo tribal rule.
The mass killings were carried out in the districts of Sonitpur -- most of them in a village named Moitulabasti -- and Kokrajhar.
“The attacks could have been in retaliation to counter-insurgency operations leading to neutralisation of many rebels in the past 30 days,” Assam police chief Khagen Sarma said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attacks, tweeting that he had spoken to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and home minister Rajnath Singh. “Rajnath ji will travel to Assam,” he wrote. Singh also confirmed on the microblogging site that paramilitary forces had been rushed to Assam.
Killing of innocent people in Sonitpur & Kokrajhar is an act of cowardice. Our thoughts & prayers are with the families of the deceased.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 23, 2014
I spoke to Assam CM Shri Tarun Gogoi & Home Minister Rajnath ji. Rajnath ji will travel to Assam and take stock of the situation.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 23, 2014
The NDFB(S) pledged revenge after a combined team of the army and the police killed two of its top leaders near the India-Bhutan border on Sunday. On Monday, suspected rebels lobbed grenades in western Assam’s Chirang and Kokrajhar districts, injuring three people.
Gogoi, who asked six of his ministers to visit the militant-hit villages, termed the attacks on unarmed villagers cowardly. “The operations against them will continue,” he said.
District officials said the random strikes in remote areas made it difficult to assess the damage done by the militants. “There are bodies littered everywhere,” an army officer said from Sonitpur district.
Locals said NDFB(S) rebels had issued eviction notices to the villagers besides extorting them for months now.
Following the attacks, several adivasi organisations called for a shutdown on Wednesday. Adivasis, categorized as ‘tea tribe’ in Assam, were brought by the British from central India to work as tea plantation workers more than 150 years ago.