VIOLENCE CONTINUES IN ASSAM, DEATH TOLL RISES TO 79
An injured youth in Assam violence
NEW DELHI: Fresh attack by the Bodo militants in Udalguri district was reported on Wednesday evening with the armed insurgents firing at the villagers and setting their houses ablaze. However, only one villager was injured during cross firing by the police who was immediately taken to the hospital.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh,who is in Assam along with Kiren Rijiju-Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, has termed this fresh attack and the massacre of Adivasis by the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) Songbijit faction , as an “act of terror.” At least 72 tribals in Sonitpur, Chirang and Kokrajhar districts had been killed by the Bodo militants. Singh said that an all-out joint offensive will be launched against the anti-talks NDFB (Songbijit faction) by the police, paramilitary forces and the army.
The death toll resulting from the ongoing violence has touched 79, including 21 women and 18 children, amid reports of the police firing at the protesting villagers and retaliatory attacks on Bodo settlements by some of the angry Adivasis.
Three tribal villagers were killed by the police in Sonitpur district yesterday when they reportedly attacked the Dhekiajuli Police Station during a protest march there.The police claimed hundreds of plantation workers armed with spears and bows and arrows defied the curfew which has been imposed since Tuesday to surround police stations in Sonitpur district, the area worst hit by the militant violence. As a result, the police had to control the mob lynching towards them and opened fire in response.
There have also been reports of retaliatory attacks by the enraged Adivasis on Bodo settlements on Wednesday morning, including beheading of two persons from Bodo community in Chirang district and setting ablaze dozens of houses belonging to Bodos in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts.Reportedly, five persons have died in the retaliatory action.
While an indefinite curfew has been clamped on Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Udalguri and Chirang district; the state is on red alert.
Meanwhile, at least 250 people are reportedly missing since Tuesday when the heavily armed militants mercilessly mowed down Adivasis many of whom escaped to the nearby jungles for their safety.
This attack, one of the bloodiest incidents of ethnic violence in the north-east state of Assam has forced more than 5,000 adivasis as well as Bodos to leave their homes. Rendered homeless, they are taking shelter in schools and churches in Sonitpur and affected districts.
Agriculture minister Nilamani Sen Deka, in Kokrajhar to oversee relief operations, said there were are about 3,000 inmates from both the communities in six relief camps in the district.
The army has been deployed in all the violence-hit areas and is 'actively' involved in maintaining the law and order situation, a defence spokesperson said.
Defence PRO, Lt Col S Newton, said 10 Army columns were deployed in the troubled areas of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Sonitpur and Udalguri districts.
"Special area domination patrols have been deployed. Senior Army officers are supervising the operations and helping the civil administration and Assam Police," he said, adding, “Aerial surveillance by Army helicopters are in service”.
He further added "We're going all-out against the militants. I had a discussion with the Prime Minister last night and the Centre has directed the Army to take out the militants," said Gogoi. "The Centre has also sent us 55 companies of paramilitary forces. The militants have taken shelters in Bhutan and Myanmar and Arunachal Pradesh.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the incident and has sanctioned ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to each of the seriously injured.
An amount of Rs 86 lakh is being released to the state government from Prime Minister's National Relief Fund, a PMO statement said.
Another fact which is creating a hue and cry in the state is that the State government had been informed by the Centre and their own sources about the possibility of an attack in the northeast state by the insurgents.
Central intelligence agencies as well as the special branch of Assam Police had informed the state about NDFB's Songbijit faction's plans to carry out strikes against adivasis and Santhals in Sonitpur and nearby areas around 4pm on Tuesday.
The alerts, which warned of serial attacks and killing of 100 non-Bodos to avenge the recent killing of NDFB militants by security forces came on Tuesday, hours before the militants struck .Assam additional director general of police (special branch) Pallab Bhattacharya said there was information about strikes by NDFB(S) militants on Tuesday. "But we had no specific information about the locations," he said.
Assam police chief Khagen Sarma had also said just a week ago that the ULFA and NDFB(S) rebels were planning attacks in the state between Christmas and Republic Day. Despite the information no measures were taken to ensure the safety of the tribals in the sensitive Bodoland districts, that have been simmering under violence since early this year.