Guwahati, June 13: Terror returned to Assam on wheels after barely a fortnight’s break, killing one person and leaving over 40 wounded in a weekly wholesale market at Hajo in Kamrup district.
Around 12.30 pm, when the market was just beginning to buzz with activity, a bomb strapped to a bicycle went off, leaving in its wake blood and cries for help.
“It was business as usual for us. The market was crowded and people were busy haggling when suddenly I heard a loud bang. The next moment I fell on the ground and everything went blank. When I regained my senses, I found myself here,” said 32-year-old Abdul Salam from his bed in Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
Salam was among the 32 wounded people — mostly vegetable traders and farmers — who were shifted to the GMCH. The list of wounded includes four children and five women.
The lone casualty was Sukur Ali, 55. He died on the spot.
Police believe that the explosion was triggered by either Ulfa or a fundamentalist group. Hajo is a popular pilgrimage centre for Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists alike.
“Investigations are on. Only after a thorough probe can we be certain about the identity of the group involved in the blast,” Kamrup superintendent of police Debojit Hazarika said.
Ulfa was prompt to deny its involvement. The outfit’s military spokesman, Raju Barua, named Assam Public Works — the NGO that has been campaigning against it —for the blast.
The NGO had conducted an opinion poll in nine districts of the state early this year to show that the majority of residents did not approve of Ulfa’s strategy and demand for “sovereignty”.
Today’s explosion comes a day after Delhi climbed a notch down from its stand on talks with Ulfa and agreed to negotiate with an emissary of the outfit.
Delhi raised hopes for peace after writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami, along with another member of the Nagarik Shanti Mancha, Susibrata Raichowdhry, called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.
The talks with the outfit had collapsed in September last year and the writer has since been trying to broker peace.
The choice of venue of today’s blast bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the outfit’s earlier attacks — usually carried out in crowded market places.
Inspector general of police (law and order) R. Chandranathan, Kamrup deputy commissioner R.C. Jain and several other senior police and district administration officials have rushed to the spot.
State revenue minister Bhumidhar Barman announced an ex gratia of Rs 300,000 to the kin of the deceased and Rs 10,000 to the injured.
“Free medical treatment will be provided to the wounded,” he said after paying a visit to the GMCH.