A security alert has been sounded across northeastern India after separatist rebels announced a boycott of the country's Independence Day on Friday, attacked a minister's residence and triggered a blast at a police premise in an apparent show of strength.
“We are not taking chances. The police across Assam have been put on high alert and we are bent on thwarting any subversive activity by the militants,” Assam Director General of Police R.N. Mathur said.
Thousands of army, police and paramilitary troopers are standing guard in other northeastern states, particularly Manipur, where militants launched a grenade attack on Tuesday at the ancestral home of Manipur Agriculture Minister Loken Singh.
“The minister was not at home during the attack at our home in Bishnupur district. No one was injured,” said the minister's brother Sanjoy Singh.
In Assam, unidentified militants lobbed a grenade at the office premises of the superintendent of police in the western Bongaigaon district on Monday, creating panic, but no damage.
Four frontline separatist groups in the region have called a boycott of Independence Day, Aug 15, and have called a general strike from 1 a.m. to 6 p.m. on that day.
The four rebel groups that have announced their boycott through a statement e-mailed to journalists are the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF) - comprising several major militant outfits in the state - the Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO) and the Tripura People's Democratic Front (TPDF).
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has meanwhile cancelled all night trains passing through the region until Aug 16.
“We do not want to risk the lives of passengers. The people would certainly understand our compulsions,” a railway spokesman said.
It has now become routine for separatist rebel groups in the northeast to call for boycott of all important days in the Indian national calendar, chief among those days being Independence Day and Republic Day on Jan 26.
“This may be a routine call by the rebels but the authorities cannot afford to take things easy because on Aug 15, 2004, the ULFA triggered a blast at an Independence Day parade in Assam's Dhemaji town, killing more than 10 schoolchildren,” said Wasbir Hussain, director of the Guwahati-based Centre for Development and Peace Studies, a think-tank.