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New Delhi Correspondent
Indian security forces on Friday launched a massive anti-insurgency operation a day after suspected insurgents of United Liberation Front of Ahom (ULFA-Independent) faction led by their leader fugitive insurgent leader Paresh Barua shot dead five Bangla-speaking persons, including three members of a family, and wounded two others wounded at a village in Tinsukia district of Assam state on Thursday night.
The security forces are keeping a particular vigil on Assam’s border with Arunachal Pradesh state to ensure the perpetrators of the killing do not manage to escape.
A group of five to six gunmen, armed with sophisticated weapons, reached Kherbari village on motorbike, dragged out the five persons from their houses at around 8.30 pm, lined them up on the dry portion of the Brahmaputra river bed near Bhupen Hazarika bridge and shot them dead, Tinsukia Superintendent of Police Prashant Sagar Changmai told the media.
The assailants, all reportedly in battle fatigues, fled taking advantage of the darkness after firing indiscriminately at these people, he said.
The five victims were identified by police as Shyamal Biswas (60), Ananta Biswas (18), Abinash Biswas (23), Subal Das (60) and Dhananjay Namasudra (23).
Assam’s Special Director General of Police Pallab Bhattacharya said, “We suspect the hand of ULFA (Independent) or some combine militant group in the incident.
However, the ULFA (Independent) issued a statement on Friday denying any involvement in the incident. “We, the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) would like to make it clear that our organisation does not have any involvement in the firing incident that occurred on 1st November 2018 at Sadiya Saikhowaghat in Tinsukia district.”
The killings came a few days after a low-intensity blast left three persons injured in Guwahati and ULFA insurgent group chief Paresh Barua had claimed responsibility for it saying it was a warning to “Hindu Bangla-speaking organizations which are conspiring against Assam despite living in the state and are protesting against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) aimed at identifying illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Barua is one of the most wanted persons in India and is suspected to have taken shelter in hideouts in Myanmar and adjacent China.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condemned the killing of five persons and wondered if it had anything to do with the exercise of updating the NRC which excluded 4.7 million people from it. The final draft NRC was published on July 30 this year.
“Terrible news coming out of Assam. We strongly condemn the brutal attack in Assam….Is this the outcome of the recent NRC development?” Mamata said in a Twitter post.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal denounced the killings and said firm action would be taken against the perpetrators. He appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony and asked all district authorities to remain alert.
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh also condemned the attack and asked the Assam Chief Minister to take strict action against the killers.
“Deeply anguished by civilian casualties in an attack in Upper Assam region. It is a reprehensible act of mindless violence. Spoke to Assam CM Shri @sarbanandsonwal regarding the incident and asked him to take strict possible action against the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” he said.
The killing of the five persons came a few days after 46 organizations of Assamese language-speaking people enforced a 12-hour general strike across Assam protesting against the Indian government’s Bill that seeks to give citizenship to “persecuted” Hindus and other religious minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Assamese-speaking outfits say the Bill more migration of Hindus will reduce their own numerical majority in Assam.
The Bangla-speaking people in Barak region of Assam support the Bill saying most of the immigrants are victims of the Partition of 1947 and religious persecution.
Several students unions and youth organisations including the All Assam Students Union (AASU) which had led a violent agitation for six years in 1980s against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh,Tai Ahom Chatra Santha, also condemned the killing of the five persons on Thursday night and urged the people to not be swayed by communal forces and to stay united.
The Tinsukia district branch of All Assam Bengali Youth and Students Federation has called a 12-hour general strike in the district today in protest against Thursday’s killings.
AASU General Secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi accused Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government in Assam of “failing to take preventive measures despite intelligence reports about possible violence”.
BJP’s Assam unit spokesperson Numal Momin said such violence against innocent people cannot solve any problem and appealed to all to maintain peace.