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Major army ops launched in Assam after militants kill 5 Bangla-speaking persons
Security forces in India today launched a major counter-insurgency operation across Assam state a day after five Bangla-speaking persons were shot dead and two others were wounded by suspected militants of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-Independent) faction in Tinsukia district of the state.
The security forces are keeping a particular vigil on Assam’s border with Arunachal Pradesh state to ensure the perpetrators of the killings do not manage to escape, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
Five Bangla-speaking persons, including three of a family, were shot dead and two others were wounded by suspected militants of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-Independent) faction led by their fugitive insurgent leader Paresh Barua in Sadiya Saikhowaghat in Tinsukia district of Assam last night, police said.
The incident took place when a group of five to six gunmen, armed with sophisticated weapons, reached Kherbari village in the district on motorbike, dragged out the five persons from their houses at around 8.30pm, lined them up on the dry portion of the Brahmaputra river bed near Bhupen Hazarika bridge and shot them dead, our New Delhi correspondent reports quoting Tinsukia Superintendent of Police Prashant Sagar Changmai.
The assailants then fled the scene taking advantage of the darkness after firing indiscriminately at these people, he said.
The five victims were identified 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 combined militant group in the incident.”
However, the ULFA (Independent) issued a statement today 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 ULFA statement read.
The killings came a few days after a low-intensity blast left three persons injured in Guwahati. ULFA insurgent group Chief Paresh Barua had claimed responsibility for it saying it was a warning to “Hindu Bangla-speaking organisations 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 killing of the 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 of 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 also condemned 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.
Meanwhile, at the call of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, activists of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress today held demonstrations across the state in protest against the killing of the Bangla-speaking persons in Assam on Thursday.
The killing of the five persons came a few days after 46 organisations 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 on more migration of Hindus will reduce their own numerical majority in Assam.
The Bangla-speaking people in Barak region of Assam supported the Bill saying most of the immigrants are victims of the Partition of 1947 and religious persecution.
Several student 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, and 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.