May 29: Blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs, the semi-decomposed bodies of five kidnapped Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel were today found inside a dense jungle on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.
Udalguri deputy commissioner George Basumatary said all five may have been killed on the very day ' May 21 ' they had been kidnapped from a village in Udalguri district of Lower Assam.
Woodcutters stumbled upon the bodies beside a rivulet in the jungle, about three km from a famous pilgrimage spot, Bhairabkunda. A joint team of police and SSB personnel reached the site around 1.30 pm and retrieved the bodies.
The post-mortem will be done at Mangoldoi, in Darrang district, tomorrow.
Kishori Lal, deputy inspector-general of the SSB’s sectoral headquarters in Tezpur, said one of the jawans had been beheaded. The rest bore cut marks on their necks.
An SSB constable who had worked with the victims confirmed that the bodies were that of P. Rabi Singh, H. Laksab Singh, Tangkholian Bhaiphai, S. Amonngha Sangtam and Krish Bahadur Chettri. All five were based at the SSB camp in Rowta.
Basumatary said the police suspected a militant organisation of being behind the killings, but declined to name any. Echoing him, the SSB’s sectoral headquarters chief said only an organised group could have kidnapped the jawans.
Lal described the killings as brutal and inhuman. “There was no reason...if they (killers) had any problem, they could have approached us but this is not the way,” he said.
The National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), which is the dominant militant group in the area, is the prime suspect but the outfit has already denied being involved in any such activity since its ceasefire with Delhi took effect nearly a year ago.
The slain SSB jawans were in the house of Babul Kalita, a resident of Moradanshiri village, on the night of May 21 when between 20 to 25 armed people arrived in two cars and three motorcycles and took them away. Kalita’s body was discovered the next day at Daudwigami, under Harisingha police outpost in the same district. He had been strangulated.
Asked what the SSB jawans were doing in Kalita’s house on the day they were kidnapped, Lal said they were probably just “relaxing” after a hard day’s work.
“I think it was incidental that our boys were killed. They (the kidnappers) had probably come for Kalita but did not want to leave witnesses. So they took away the jawans, too,” he said.
Apprehending possible retaliation, the deputy commissioner appealed to security forces, particularly the SSB, to exercise restraint. “I have asked them to be restrained and ensure that civilians are not harassed,” he said.