Death toll in Assam attack rises to 64, Adivasis retaliate; Arunachal sounds high alert

Security forces deployed after Bodo militant attack in Assam.

Guwahati, Dec 24: As the death toll mounted to 64 in the four attacks by NDFB(S) militants in Assam’s Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts, angry Adivasi villagers on Wednesday retaliated by setting ablaze houses of Bodos and took out protest marches.

An indefinite curfew has been imposed in five areas of Sonitpur district after the deadly attack by the banned outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that the majority of victims in the “barbaric” attacks that took place on Tuesday evening were women and children and steps were being taken to ensure that the situation does not escalate.

Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh sounded a high alert after a series of attacks by suspected NDFB(S) militants at Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts of neighboring Assam.

Chief Minister Nabam Tuki told reporters that the home department has issued directives to the deputy commissioner and SPs of all the districts bordering Assam to keep a strict vigil on possibility of ultras sneaking into the state’s territory after the massacre.

The militants are believed to have attacked the villages as a response to the intensified operation by the security forces, said inspector general of police (law and order) SN Singh.

On Tuesday evening, Bodo militants gunned down at least 34 tribals and injured several others in orchestrated attacks across two districts of Assam.

The attackers belonged to the anti-talks National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) faction, police officials said. All the victims were Adivasis, who along with migrant Muslims have been the target of sectarian violence in areas sought under the Bodo tribal rule.

According to Assam police spokesperson Rajib Saikia, 30 people – including 24 in one village named Moitalubasti – were killed in Sonitpur district while four died in Kokrajhar district. Of the victims, at least 13 were children and 10 women.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attacks, tweeting that he had spoken to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and home minister Rajnath Singh. “Rajnath ji will travel to Assam,” he wrote.

Rajnath Singh also confirmed on the microblogging site that paramilitary forces had been rushed to Assam.

The NDFB(S) pledged revenge after a combined team of the army and the police killed two of its top leaders near the India-Bhutan border on Sunday. On Monday, suspected rebels lobbed grenades in western Assam’s Chirang and Kokrajhar districts, injuring three people.

Gogoi, who asked six of his ministers to visit the militant-hit villages, termed the attacks on unarmed villagers cowardly. “The operations against them will continue,” he said.

Locals said NDFB(S) rebels had issued eviction notices to the villagers besides extorting them for months now.

Condemning the killing in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts of Assam, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi said that Central and state governments should work together to punish the culprits.

Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao too condemned the attack terming it as gruesome, saying: “It is a gruesome act. The Centre will take all preventive steps so that such incidents are not repeated.”

The world heritage site, Manas National Park has also been closed for three days in a bid to intensify operation against militants.

Following the attacks, several Adivasi organisations called for a shutdown on Wednesday. Adivasis, categorized as ‘tea tribe’ in Assam, were brought by the British from central India to work as tea plantation workers more than 150 years ago.

(With Agency Inputs)

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