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Bloodbath in Bodo belt

• Army out in districts
• Indefinite curfew
• Officials rush to sites

May 2: At least 20 persons have been killed and 12 injured in attacks by suspected NDFB (Songbijit) militants in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts in Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) in Assam since yesterday. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi has asked the police to deal with the situation firmly.

The army was called out today after 10 persons were killed and five injured in three separate attacks in the two districts last night. But militants struck again tonight, killing at least 10 persons and injuring seven.

Indefinite curfew has been clamped in three of the four districts of the BTAD — Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang.

In Chirang it has been clamped as a precautionary measure. Curfew has also been imposed along Dhubri district's border with the BTAD districts. Dhubri additional superintendent of police D. Bora said the army was manning security posts in a stretch of 5km on either side of the border.

Inspector-general of police (law and order) S.N. Singh told The Telegraph that 10 persons were killed when suspected militants struck at Nonkkagabari under Gobordhona police station in Baksa district around 8pm tonight. Seven bodies have been identified, sources said.

Baksa deputy commissioner Vinod Seshan said around 8-12 people were killed. Unofficial sources put today’s death toll in Baksa at 11.

In another incident, seven persons were injured when miscreants stopped the vehicle they were travelling in and beat them up on their way from Barpeta Road to Gobordhona in Baksa around 7pm.

Last night, 10 persons were killed and five injured in three separate incidents in BTAD, which is governed by the Bodoland Territorial Council.

Three persons (a couple and the woman in whose courtyard they were standing) were shot dead and two minors (one six and the other 12) were injured at Narsingbari under Gobordona police station in Salbari subdivision of Baksa district when gunmen fired at them indiscriminately around 8pm. The two injured have been sent to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH).

At Tamalpur in Baksa, one person was seriously injured when gunmen shot at him. He was taken to GMCH around midnight. Over 36 houses were set ablaze at Narayanguri in Baksa.

In Kokrajhar district, seven persons, including two minors, were killed and two seriously injured when gunmen attacked two families at Balapara village under Tulsibil police station in Gossaigaon subdivision at 11.30pm. Home commissioner G.D. Tripathi confirmed the toll.

In the first instance, a woman was killed along with her daughter-in-law and infant granddaughter. The son survived as he was sleeping in a separate house. He said about 20 gunmen, who had their faces masked, broke the door open and fired indiscriminately, killing all his family members on the spot. The miscreants also attacked the nearby houses.

In the second shooting, a couple was killed along with their daughter and another family member. Two persons were injured. They were rushed to Dhubri civil hospital. One of them was sent to GMCH.

The police recovered several empty cartridges of AK-47 rifles from the spot.

The killings came a few hours after the NDFB (S) issued a statement warning of “tit-for-tat retaliation” against the state and Union governments for killing two of its cadres and a civilian in a “fake encounter” with “Assam police and CRPF using Ranjan Daimary’s cadres” at Jingia Tinkhuti village in Sonitpur district on Wednesday.

The statement, signed by the outfit’s information and publicity secretary, N. Esera, alleged that the three were arrested from the same village and after an hour’s interrogation were killed at point blank range “without any justification”. It asked Daimary to stop the fratricidal bloodshed.

The villagers of Balapara alleged that there was “no security for them”. They said a BSF patrol party had come to their village but left after a while. The assailants came 10-15 minutes later.

The villagers expressed surprise at how the miscreants could attack as soon as the patrol party left.

Kokrajhar deputy commissioner Nitin Khade said the administration had stepped up security arrangements in the district. Appealing for peace, he said miscreants have been trying to create turmoil by triggering violence. He also convened a meeting with all parties and organisations in his office.

State commissioner and secretary (home) G.D. Tripathi said the army staged flag marches in the violence-hit areas of the two districts to instil confidence among people and bring the situation under control.

“We have also kept the army on standby in the other two districts of Chirang and Udalguri (of BTAD) in case of an emergency,” he added.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi reviewed the situation with civil and police officials in Guwahati this morning and instructed them to deal firmly with the situation.

He asked senior police officials to take “sector-wise responsibility” for maintaining law and order in the BTAD. Commissioner and secretary (home), chief secretary Jitesh Khosla, director-general of police Khagen Sarma, additional DGP (special branch) Pallab Bhattacharyya and principal secretary to the chief minister Jishnu Barua were present in the meeting.

Assam additional DGP A.P. Raut, parliamentary secretary for home, Etuwa Munda, border areas department minister Siddique Ahmed and other high police and district administration officials visited the affected areas.

Gogoi also briefed Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde this morning about the incidents. Shinde assured Gogoi that additional companies would be sent to reinforce security.

The state home department has requested the Union home ministry for additional 10 companies of central paramilitary forces for deployment in the violence-hit areas.

Official sources said seven columns (each comprising 60 men) of army troops have been deployed in the BTAD, four in Baksa and three in Kokrajhar districts.

“Though the entire Red Horns Division (between 7,000 and 8,000 men) of the army is deployed in the counter-terrorism grid in lower Assam as per the requisition of the state government, seven columns of army personnel have been deployed in the violence-affected areas of BTAD,” a source said.

BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary announced an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh each to the family of those killed and Rs 50,000 to the injured.

He said there have been reports of involvement of NDFB (S) in the attacks.

The Centre today said NDFB (S) leaders in Myanmar were trying to provoke communal tension in BTAD to divert attention from operations against them but promised to continue strong anti-Songbijit operations.

“We are told Songbijit has been sending messages from Myanmar to whip up communal tension in Bodoland to divert attention from operations against them,” joint secretary (Northeast) in the home ministry, Shambhu Singh, told The Telegraph.

“The government of Myanmar has been informed about his presence but they have said they do not allow any anti-India activity from their soil,” he added.

The Opposition BJP and AIUDF have condemned the killings. AIUDF spokesperson Haider Hussain Bora said the party had sought a CBI probe, fearing that some people may take advantage of the situation to tamper with the EVMs in Kokrajhar parliamentary constituency, which went to the polls on April 24.

The ruling Congress, too, described the attacks as poll-related violence. The BJP flayed the Gogoi government for repeatedly failing to curb violence. Senior BPPF leader U.G. Brahma blamed Dispur for the situation in the Bodo belt and sought a high-level probe.

In neighbouring Dhubri, the All Assam Minorities Students’ Union’s district unit condemned the attacks and appealed to the district administration to step up vigil and keep a close watch on the situation to prevent recurrence of the 2012 riots.