| Children use umbrellas to shield themselves from the rain at Bhangarpar in Baksa district, where about 500 people are taking shelter. Picture by Sumir Karmakar |
Bhangarpar, May 4: The bamboo barricade on lime-pasted tins and tyres was placed to stop all vehicles in front of Gobardhana police station, under which 21 people have been killed since Thursday.
“Take permission from the deputy commissioner as Section 144 CrPC is in force. Sir is in the police station,” a policeman manning the barricade told this correspondent who asked to go further.
A little over 5km of deserted roads and checks by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel at Kalapani, Elanguri and Soonbari village later, this correspondent came across hundreds of people gathered around 18 bodies under a market shed here.
On May 1, three persons were gunned down at Narshingbari, about 10km from Gobardhana police station, nearly 150km from Guwahati.
| Villagers gather around the bodies at Bhangarpar market on Sunday. Picture by Sumir Karmakar |
Around 3pm on May 2, Narayanguri and NK Khagrabari — two villages about half-a-kilometre from the market — were attacked. “Villagers have to cross the Beki at two places to come to the market for daily shopping,” said a young boy.
“The residents want chief minister Tarun Gogoi to come here and assure them that those behind the crime will be punished and security will be provided,” Rohomot Ali, a local leader of the All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), said around 11am.
The villagers, bent on not allowing the last rites to be performed till the chief minister reached there, however, calmed down when border area development minister Siddique Ahmed reached the spot around 3pm.
The villagers agreed to perform the last rites after Ahmed announced ex gratia of Rs 6 lakh to the next of kin of the victims and Rs 3 lakh to the injured. “Action will be taken against those who committed the crime. Cases were registered in connection with the violence with the National Investigation Agency today,” Ahmed said.
Around 4pm, janajas (rituals) were performed and the bodies taken to Raghab Beel graveyard, about 2km away, for burial. The 18 bodies were buried at 5pm.
Fifty-three-year-old Fakhruddin of NK Khagrabari, however, was unhappy with the minister’s assurances. “Who will search for my daughter?” he asked. His 12-year-old daughter Alia has been missing since the attack on his village on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier, ABMSU leaders sat in front of the bodies with a list of the 21 people killed in the attacks. “Another 19 people from the two villages are missing. Those missing include 13 children and six women. We suspect they had jumped into the river to save themselves from the bullets fired by attackers,” Rohomot Ali said.
Police and SSB jawans asked people not to stand too long near the bodies, probably to ensure the people’s anger did not take a violent turn.
As some people stood around the bodies, 27-year-old Mofida Khatun of NK Khagrabari was inconsolable. Her elder sister Hazera Bibi was shot dead when her husband had gone to the Bhangarpar market. “What harm did my sister do to them?” Mofida asked, tears rolling down her cheeks. Hazera’s body, covered with black polythene sheet, lay under the market shed.
The ABMSU leaders demanded apart from action against the killers and security in the villages, cash compensation of Rs 20 lakh and Rs 10 lakh should be provided to the victims and the injured respectively. They demanded Rs 5 lakh for those whose houses were burnt down.
One of the village leaders, however, shouted slogans against “elements” who were allegedly trying to create more trouble. “Let us not allow any organisation to take political advantage and create more problems for us. After all, we will have to live here,” he said, addressing the crowd gathered in the market.