GUWAHATI: Life for Jitu Gogoi (name changed), a farmer in his mid 30s of Tarani village in remote Tinsukia district of Assam,changed suddenly after an ambush that killed three Indian Army personnel in Pengeri, Tinsukia district in Upper Assam on Saturday.

Gogoi and his fellow villagers find themselves to be the targets, facing harassment and even violence from the security forces searching the area of alleged militants.

The deadly attack on vehicles of Indian Army took place at Pengeri in Upper Dehing reserved forest leaving three personnel dead and three others wounded.

On Sunday the Coordination Committee (CorCom) of People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Progressive), Revolutionary People’s Front and United National Liberation Front and United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-Independent) owned responsibility for the ambush in a joint statement.

The security personnel intensified their counter-insurgency operation on Sunday. “It has become very difficult for us to stay here. They (security personnel) come and beat up all the male members of a family and lock up the women inside without any reasons. It’s terrible. Many of our neighbours have already left their home. We are also thinking of moving to our relatives’ place,” Gogoi told The Citizen.

He also said that one wedding had to be postponed after the security forces started their counter-insurgency operations in the villagers near by the spot.

“Many had left the village and taking shelter in some schools and such community houses together fearing the forces,” Gogoi added.

On Monday, the local media reported that several villagers were injured when security forces beat them up. Asomiya Pratidin, the highest circulated Assamese daily, said that at least six persons in Dhekiajan and Mulukgaon villages in the nearby areas were injured when they were beaten up without provocation. Reports reaching Guwahat suggest that the security forces have gone on a rampage in the remote villages, targeting poor and hapless villagers.

This kind of assault is not new to the area, with the ‘harassment’ continuing since the 1990’s. Filmmaker Jaicheng Jai Dohutia who hails from upper Assam said that it’s accepted as the new normal.

“I remember a similar incident when I was a student, in class IX. I had seen the terror among the family members and the neighbours. I don’t know when we will have peace,” Dohutia said. Incidentally his recent film ‘Handook’ (The Hidden Corner) on insurgency won accolades in Mami Mumbai Film Festival.

Some of the elders also recalled the days of ‘Operation Bajrang’ and ‘Operation Rhino’ in the 1990s and early 2000s when the security forces launched massive operations against the militants.

“Yes. My experience says that similar incidents are very common in these areas. But under the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), the security forces are empowered to conduct such operations. So, there is unaccountability,” a senior journalist who has covered several such incidents in conflict reporting told The Citizen on condition of anonymity.

He said that the insurgents groups across the region have suffered after the demonetization and they are now desperate to make their presence felt.

“The demonetization was a huge blow to all the insurgent groups in the region and it was bound to happen. They are now desperate to make their presence felt so that they can carry out their activities of collecting funds,” he maintained.

(Cover photograph: Villagers leave for safer abode)