Government forces tightened security on Wednesday in a remote northeast Indian state after separatist rebels urged residents to boycott upcoming Republic Day celebrations and join a general strike.
The rebels, who are seeking independence for Assam state, have carried out shootings and bomb attacks in previous years during the national holiday, which marks the adoption of the Indian charter on Jan. 26, 1950.
At least 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in fighting between government forces and separatists during the past three decades in Assam state.
"We believe in a political process to resolve the conflicts satisfactorily. But we are firm about countering India's military repression of our struggle," four insurgent groups said in a joint statement.
The United Liberation Front of Asom, the state's largest separatist group, was leading the boycott call. The other groups involved were the Kamatapur Liberation Organization, the Manipur People's Liberation Front and the Tripura People's Democratic Front. "We will fight to the last for our sovereign independence. There can be no compromise on this issue," they said in the statement. The rebels accuse the central government of exploiting Assam's rich natural resources without investing in the development of the region.
Authorities stepped up security, intensifying search operations and establishing extra checkpoints across the state. "We have deployed additional forces," said G.M. Srivastava, the Assam state police chief.
"We are not taking chances ... (in our efforts) to step up the vigil to thwart attempts by militants to create terror," he said.