Nagaon, Nov. 2: A just-retired jawan leaving for home and six colleagues were today gun-ned down in one of the more audacious militant attacks in Assam in recent months.
Police suspect the anti-talks faction of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD), a group representing the Dimasa tribe of North Cachar Hills district, of being behind the ambush on a desolate stretch of hilly road about 200km from Guwahati and 70km from Haflong.
The slain personnel were escorting the commanding officer of the CRPF’s 50th Battalion, P.K. Chetry, from Haflong to Lanka in Nagaon district when the rebels struck between Dehangi and Doyangmukh around 10.30am.
For sub-inspector P.K. Awasthi, who retired from service on Wednesday, it was meant to be a journey back home to a life bereft of the tensions of serving in a militant-infested area. He had hitched a ride to Lanka on the third and last vehicle in the convoy, which is the one the militants chose to attack. The retired jawan was to have proceeded to Guwahati from Lanka on his own and then catch a train to his native village of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh.
The officer in-charge of Umrangshu police station, Anil Moran, said from the ambush site that the militants probably had information that a convoy would pass that way and were lying in wait on both sides of the road. “They let the first two vehicles pass and targeted the pick-up van (in which the guards were travelling) with grenades and a hail of bullets from automatic weapons. The jawans had no time to retaliate. All of them died where they fell.”
The two vehicles in front sped away to Doyangmukh, from where the survivors called the police for help.
The others who died in the attack were A.D. Varma, Nav-in Chand, Sahadev Chandra Rai, D.N. Tiwari, Anil Kumar Rai and Prasanta Bora. Varma was a havildar from Tripura, Chand a sub-inspector from Uttaranchal, Sahadev Rai a constable from Kokrajhar, Tiwari a havildar from Uttar Pradesh, Anil Rai a driver from the same state and Bora a constable from Nagaon.
The additional superintendent of police (security) of North Cachar Hills, Nitai Chandra Ghosh, said the ambush had the stamp of the Jewel Gorlosa-led faction of the DHD. “Prima facie, the needle of suspicion points to this anti-talks faction of the Dimasa militant group.”
The faction ambushed a team of railway employees, killing 11 of them, in a village under Maibong police station on October 6 last year. This year, it killed the chief executive member of the North Cac-har Hills Autonomous Council, Purnendu Lanthasa, and a colleague, Nindu Langthasa, just nine days before elections to the council were to be held.
The police suspect today’s attack was in retaliation to the arrest of 10 DHD(J) members between October 15 and 17 in North Cachar Hills and neighbouring Meghalaya.
The other faction of the DHD is in ceasefire with Delhi and the state government.