In one of the worst ethnic clashes in recent times, 31 people belonging to the Karbi and Kuki tribes were killed in four separate incidents in Assam's Karbi Anglong district on Wednesday.
The massacre takes the death toll in the troubled hill district to over 80 since November when fighting broke out between Kuki and Karbi militants.
According to Karbi Anglong district police officials, the cycle of violence on Wednesday may have been started by militants of the Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) when they raided Uden Tisso village around 4 a.m. They hacked to death four Karbi men and set a dozen huts on fire in the village, situated some 5 km from Dilai police outpost.
An hour later, another group of suspected KRA militants attacked two adjoining villages — Sarpo Terang and Sarkhe Engleng. The women and children in the village were spared, but all the men were called out of their houses and 22 of them killed. Most of the houses were razed.
Things had taken an ethnic hue by afternoon and irate Karbi groups retaliated by picking on some Kuki residents in Jari Terang village, some 12 km from Manja police outpost under Diphu police station. Five Kuki men were shot dead during the attack, presumably orchestrated by the Karbi militant outfit United Peoples' Democratic Solidarity.
The genesis of the ethnic clashes was an alleged move by the majority Karbi community of the hill district to cleanse their 'homeland' of outsiders. Two communities, Kukis and the Khasi-Pnars were targetted.
While over 30,000 Khasi-Pnars residing in Karbi Anglong areas bordering Meghalaya fled the district, the Kukis who had settled from neighbouring Manipur retaliated, emboldened as they were by the support of the KRA.
The KRA has since then been attacking Karbi villages, primarily in the Sinhasan hill range. Most of the people killed have been Karbis.
"The situation is understandably tense in Karbi Anglong, particularly in view of the Lok Sabha elections," state home secretary B.M. Mazumdar told HT.
** Genesis: In November 2003, Karbi community decides to cleanse ‘homeland’ of outsiders
** Target: Kuki, Khasi-Pnar tribes
** Fallout: Khasi-Pnars flee. But Kuki Revolutionary Army retaliates, attacks Karbi villages