Nagaon, Nov. 28: Saw mills burned and workers faced bullets in Assam’s North Cachar Hills throughout last night with militants making the most of relaxed security in one part of the district after an incident-free first phase of elections to the autonomous council.
As many as 11 people died — eight last evening and three in the wee hours of today — in the wave of attacks by militants of the Jewel Gorlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah.
Eight saw mills were torched, six of them at Block Bazar. Police said the same group of militants that set two saw mills ablaze and killed eight workers near Umrangsu around 8.30pm struck at Block Bazar about four hours later.
“The assailants (there were between 10 and 20 members in the group) reached the saw mills and targeted workers who were on night duty. After torching the mills, they opened fire on the fleeing workers,” a police officer said from Haflong, the district headquarters.
Wahab Khan, the owner of one of the saw mills gutted in the second wave of attacks, said he lost one employee in the violence.
“My mill was shut since campaigning for the election started. After setting it on fire, the militants shot the mill’s chowkidar, Abdul Latif, in his sleep. They then killed Krishnapada Ghosh, a cook employed by another mill owner, Dinesh Singh.”
The third casualty in the post-midnight violence was Rajen Singh, a truck driver. He died while being shifted to Guwahati.
Latif and Ghosh were from Lanka in Nagaon district, one of the districts bordering the North Cachar Hills. Three more injured persons are in hospital.
The Gorlosa group began the chain of violence with back-to-back attacks on two saw mills and a tea garden in Umrangsu.
The victims were Bhusan Das, Babul Das, Jha Timung, Sitaram Sharma, Ram Bahadur Chettry, Manoj Das, Sarsing Ingti and Deben Soren.
Of the four injured in those attacks, the condition of two, Biren Saikia and Sankar Chetry, remained critical today. Umrangsu-based senior health officer Subodh Sarma said Chetry lost his left eye. He and Saikia were shifted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital this morning.
Sources said refusal to pay money to the militant group was the reason behind the series of attacks. “The outfit demanded money from mill owners over the phone even this morning,” one of them said.
North Cachar Hills additional superintendent of police (headquarters) P. Kar said the bulk of the security forces stationed in these areas until Monday had been shifted to other constituencies for the second phase of the elections. “The outfit took advantage of that.”
The first phase of polling was in 15 constituencies. The second and last phase will be in 12 constituencies, most of them in Maibong subdivision, on December 1.