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BTAD protests with rallies & strikes
NDFB-S blames forces for unrest

Kokrajhar, Jan. 20: Rallies and bandhs against militant killings affected life in the Bodo belt today as Dispur reviewed the situation and the Songbijit faction of NDFB said it was not against any Indian community and blamed security forces for the unrest.

The All Bodo Students Union (Absu) and the ruling Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) held separate rallies in Kokrajhar town while the All Bodoland Minority Students Union (ABMSU) and the All Assam Bhojpuri Yuva Chhatra Parishad called 24-hour bandhs in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) and statewide respectively in protest against the militant attacks that have killed eight persons and injured over six since January 17.

Absu took out a peace procession from Raasmela field and proceeded through RNB Road, Vivekananda Path, Civil Lines and JD Road. A large number of people, including NGOs, residents and Bodo People’s Progressive Front (BPPF) leaders, participated in it.

Absu’s Kokrajhar district president Lawrence Islary criticised militants for trying to create turmoil in the region with their “heinous act” and the government for failing to protect life and property in the BTAD. He urged the government to deploy adequate security forces in the region, militants to refrain from senseless killings and the people to maintain peace and harmony.

Assam IG (law and order) S.N. Singh announces the cash rewards at a news conference in Guwahati on Monday. Picture by UB Photos

Former Rajya Sabha MP and BPPF leader U.G. Brahma, who participated in the rally, alleged a political conspiracy to create turmoil in the region and said the situation could worsen if the government didn’t act immediately.

The BPF took out a procession from BTC secretariat ground, Bodofa Nwgwr, to the deputy commissioner’s office in Kokrajhar. The protesters carried placards and banners and shouted slogans against the NDFB (S). They submitted a memorandum to the DC, demanding steps to arrest the culprits and adequate compensation to the victims’ families. It also urged the government to deploy adequate security forces on NH 31(C).

Assam parliamentary secretary (home) Atuwa Munda visited Chirang district today and reviewed the security scenario with senior district and police officials. He also visited the injured in hospital.

Munda said the army would post a picket at Panbari where one person was gunned down and three were injured by suspected NDFB (S) militants on Saturday. He yesterday visited Kokrajhar, where five bus passengers were gunned down by the outfit on Friday night, and held a meeting with senior district and police officials.

He said 12 companies of CRPF, two companies of BSF and 11 companies of Assam police battalion have been deployed in the BTAD for carrying out intensive operations with the army. He said more forces would be deployed, if required.

The ABMSU strike paralysed normal life in the BTAD with business establishments remaining closed and offices registering thin attendance. Several organisations, including the All BTC Bengali Youth Students' Federation, the All Koch-Rajbongshi Students Union and the Non-Bodo Suraksha Samiti, supported the bandh.

Talking to reporters at Salakati in Kokrajhar, ABMSU general secretary Lafikul Islam Ahmed alleged a nexus between the police, the state government and the NDFB (S) to terrorise non-Bodos to cast their vote in favour of the Congress in the Lok Sabha election. He slammed the BTC and the state government for failing to protect the life and property of non-Bodos in BTAD. Saying that every community has a right to live in the BTAD, he urged Bodo organisations to protest against such heinous acts by militant groups. He also urged the NDFB (S) to stop killing innocent people.

The All Assam Bhojpuri Yuva Chhatra Parishad strike affected traffic. Pockets of Bihari-inhabited areas of lower Assam districts remained closed.

No untoward incidents were reported from any part of lower Assam.

The United Democratic People’s Front, the Akhil Asom Bhojpuri Parishad (AABP) and the Dhubri unit of Akhil Assam Behari Yuva Manch also condemned the killings and asked the government to take immediate steps to stop the mindless killings.

Speaking to reporters in Dhubri, AABP president Parshuram Dubey said despite their intimation about Hindi and Bengali-speaking people being targeted by the NDFB (S) in the BTAD, the government had maintain a stoic silence over the past few months.

“This cannot be accepted from the elected government at Dispur which is aware of the volatile ground situation but has failed to take timely steps to control the situation,” he added.

Dubey said militants have targeted Hindi-speaking people in Assam for more than a decade and if the government could not control the situation, it should provide them arms.

He threatened agitation, including a sit-in in front of chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s residence at Koinadhara, if the government did not arrest the killers within 48 hours. He warned the government not to take their warning lightly.

The Manch termed the attacks inhuman acts of cowardice. Its secretary Arjun Kurmi sought compensation for the victim’s families and warned the government of dire consequences if the extortion, kidnapping and killings did not stop.

An NDFB (S) release alleged that the repeated killing of innocent Bodo civilians by the security forces had made the outfit restless. “We are not against any Indian community. We respect each and every community of the world as human beings if they respect our nationality. Since many years, Indian security forces have tortured, humiliated and killed innocent indigenous Bodo civilians and harassed the family members of NDFB cadres mentally and physically,” the release, signed by B. Saoraigwra, the interim general secretary of NDFB, said. It warned security forces against “violating human rights and killings innocent civilians”.