Simna Colony (West Tripura), May 7: This sleepy village near the Tripura capital was today bathed in blood as militants, aided by tribal “sympathisers”, hacked and shot dead 19 people in a pre-dawn swoop on Bengali settlers.
The massacre by the All Tripura Tiger Force is the worst in the state in two years. The toll, including nine women and six children, is expected to rise with four of the six injured reported to be in a critical condition.
The ruling Left Front has called a 12-hour bandh tomorrow in protest against the killings.
A group of 12 militants led the assault on the residents of Kalitilla locality of Simna Colony, which is known to be a CPM stronghold. The rebels reached the area around 12.30 am, split into groups of four and guided their 40-odd tribal henchmen to the 13 houses there.
The militants set fire to the thatched houses and let loose a hail of bullets when the residents rushed out in panic. Those who escaped the bullets were hacked to death. Eyewitnesses said several children were hurled into the flaming houses or shot from close range during the hourlong mayhem.
After the massacre, the rebels and their henchmen are believed to have returned to their base at Satcherri in Bangladesh. Residents alleged that BSF personnel manning an outpost close to Simna Colony neither rushed to their help nor intercepted the militants despite noticing flames and hearing gunshots.
BSF commandant R.P. Sonowal, however, refuted the allegation. “As a disciplined force, we do not react to charges like these. But I can assure you that our men have performed commendably in even Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
The site of the massacre is just 45 km from Agartala. The Indo-Bangladesh border and the BSF outpost are just half-a-km away. Across the border is Habiganj district of Bangladesh, where the headquarters of the Tiger Force is located.
The victims have been identified as Sujit Sarkar (25), Laxmi Rani Sarkar (45), Kumud Sarkar (40), Swapan Mallik (28), Jharna Mallik (25), Dipen Mallik (15), Raicharan Sarkar (60), Lalita Sarkar (28), Uttam Sarkar (5), Biswajit Sarkar (3), Narottam Sarkar (2), Namita Sarkar (30), Ritumohan Sarkar (45), Chhaya Rani Sarkar (35), Jayanti Sarkar (6), Rekha Sarkar (5), Kajal Sarkar (6), Prabhasini Mallik (49) and Ranjit Sarkar (24).
An hour before the massacre, militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura killed a non-tribal couple and a tribal woman at Radhanagar village in North Tripura district and Bachaibari under Champahaor police station of Khowai subdivision. The victims were Nilimesh Pal and his wife Alpana and senior CPM activist Rasamala Debbarma.
The same group of militants abducted three persons, identified as Mintu Pal, Nalini Malakar and Manindra Malakar.
The massacre at Simna Colony rocked the Assembly, which had to be adjourned for the day following uproarious scenes. Opposition legislators, led by Ratanlal Nath, demanded a discussion on security and said an all-party delegation should visit the village. However, the Speaker turned down both demands.
CPM spokesman Gautam Das later said all those killed and abducted were associated with the ruling Left Front in one way or the other. He said the sole motive behind the killings was to destabilise the government.