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Protests over girl’s ‘execution’ by rebels

Kokrajhar/Bongaigaon, Aug. 23: Protests and condemnation continued to pour in over the execution of school student Priya Basumatary by NDFB (Songbijit) in Chirang district of Assam on Wednesday while Dispur contemplated instituting a bravery award in her honour.

Sources said the militants dragged Priya, the second daughter of farmer Niren Basumatary, out of her house at Dwimuguri village under Runikhata police station around 4.30pm and shot her dead on the suspicion of being a police informer. They said the militants forced the villagers to assemble at the site before shooting Priya from close range.

The outfit alleged that the girl was in a relationship with a cadre of the rival Ranjan Daimary faction and had passed on information about the presence of five of their colleagues at Dwimuguri to security forces through him, leading to the killing of the cadres.

“She had passed on the information through the boy she loved, who is a member of the Ranjan Daimary group, and they (security forces) killed five of our members. So we killed her. If the government keeps on killing us like this, we will have to do the same,” NDFB (S) “deputy army chief” B. Bidai, told television channels hours later. He was accompanied by 14 members of the outfit, all of whom posed in front of the cameras with sophisticated weapons.

The Ranjan Daimary group, however, denied the allegation the next day.

Priya’s execution is the second such incident to have rocked the Northeast this year. Militants blew off the head of a 35-year-old woman, Jospin M. Sangma, at Chokpot in neighbouring Meghalaya’s South Garo Hills in June in the presence of her four children and husband.

Security forces said five members of the NDFB (S) were killed during an encounter inside Chirang reserve forest around 4.30am on Wednesday. The outfit retaliated by killing Priya around 4.30pm the same day.

Deputy inspector-general of police (administration) and spokesperson A.J. Baruah said the police had acquired the TV footage of Bidai’s announcement and started identifying those involved in the killings. They have also recorded the statements of Priya’s parents.

Baruah also dismissed allegations of recovering Priya’s body after 48 hours. “We recovered the body the next day and sent it to Chirang civil hospital. The hospital record will say when it received the body. The post-mortem was carried out the next day.”

He said the 16-year-old Class X student was killed by NDFB cadres in the evening and the police team travelled around three hours, crossing several streams and a river, to reach the site, which is 45km from Kajalgaon, the district headquarters of Chirang, and 250km from Guwahati.

Asked whether Priya was a police informant, Baruah said he would not be able to comment unless he receives the detailed report from the district police.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said in Guwahati that his government would institute a bravery award in Priya’s name for her “exemplary courage”. He also announced an ex gratia of Rs 6 lakh to her next of kin. Assam will give Rs 3 lakh while the Centre will pay the rest.

The announcement was, however, questioned by the All Bodo Students Union (Absu). “The chief minister should make it clear on what basis has he announced a bravery award in Priya’s honour. Was she being used as an informer by the security forces? If so, then they are violating the law,” Absu president Pramod Boro said.

He urged militant groups and the government not to involve women and children in any kind of conflict. “The people of the region are not ready to tolerate this kind of conflict and we urge both militant groups and the government to resolve the issue through meaningful dialogues.”

The Boro People’s Committee for Peace Initiative also condemned the killing. Its president Maneswar Brahma called upon all organisations and NDFB factions on behalf of “every Bodo person and people of the region” to stand united and resolve the Bodo issue through dialogue.

The committee also condemned the killing of the five NDFB (S) members by security forces. “The villagers claimed they were arrested first and subsequently killed in cold blood. If this is true, then it is blatant human rights violation on the part of the government machinery and is tantamount to extra-judicial killing,” Brahma said.

The Bodo Sahitya Sabha warned the NDFB (S) to refrain from “barbaric” killings. Its general secretary, Kamalakanta Muchahary, said, “We want to tell the NDFB (S) that such killing is not characteristic of a revolutionary outfit. It is simply an act of terrorism. If the deceased was a police and army informer, why did the NDFB (S) not fight the armed forces?”

The Sabha demanded a CBI inquiry into Priya’s killing and flayed the police for not recovering her body for over 40 hours.

The AGP condemned the killing and criticised the police and the home department for failing to maintain law and order in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD).

The BJP, the Congress and the AASU also condemned the killing.

The Bongaigaon Auto-Rickshaw Union observed a two-hour token strike at Chapaguri in protest against the killing. Chapaguri is located on the boundary of Chirang and Bongaigaon districts and the auto-rickshaws ply between the two districts.

The police said their operation against militants was on.

Additional reporting by Guwahati bureau