Mangaldoi, Oct. 29: A grenade attack on revellers enjoying a late night out at a Lakshmi Puja mela in Udalguri district of Assam left 12 people wounded, five of them critically.
The otherwise sleepy township of Dhansirighat was bustling with activity well past midnight yesterday when the sound of the blast at the mela ground pierced the air. Witnesses said the grenade was hurled from a distance at people who had gathered around a makeshift food stall for a snack around 1.30am.
The grenade hit the roof of the stall and rolled down to the ground, exploding on impact. In a flash, the atmosphere of revelry turned into one of horror. Screams rent the air and people lay on the ground, writhing in pain.
Souransa Boro, 17, was sipping tea with his friends when the blast occurred. He blanked out for a fraction of a second before realising that he was injured.
I was out with friends and decided to have a snack at the food stall. When the grenade exploded, everything around me became a blur. I found myself in a pool of blood and there was chaos all around with people screaming and running in panic, Souransa recalled.
Police said the assailants set ablaze three shops near the venue before melting into the night.
Most of the injured people were admitted to Mangaldoi Civil Hospital. The five with critical injuries Souransa, Sanjib Kumar Daimary, 20, Mijing Boro, 17, Dersa Daimary, 18, and Pradip Talukdar, 40 were shifted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
Investigators did not rule out the possibility of the attack being intended to trigger communal friction in an area inhabited by several communities. Some people were detained for questioning, but there was no breakthrough in the investigation till late tonight.
The Dhansirighat Lakshmi Puja Organising Committee has been holding a mela annually for the past 53 years. Yesterday was the last day of the fair and residents of the area were in the mood to bask in the festive atmosphere till the wee hours.
Ranjan Hazarika, one of those who saw the silhouettes of the fleeing assailants, said there would have been casualties had the attack occurred a few hours earlier. The crowd was thinning as the night wore on. Most of those still hanging around were youths and they bore the brunt of the blast.
A senior police official said security had been intensified across the district, one of four administered by the Bodoland Territorial Council.