One-Hour Massacre of 62 in Assam

The multiple attacks by tribal guerrrillas in Assam should  have been anticipated and prevented by the authorities since the group – the National Democratic Front of Bodoland  – was likely to see revenge after 40 of its well-trained members were killed in a major offensive  by security forces in the past few months.

Over 60 people were killed yesterday in a space of an hour.  The NDFB wants  a separate homeland for indigenous Bodo people who, they say, have been marginalized by the arrival of outsiders in Assam.

The authorities, flush with recent successes against the outfit, apparently did not expect such a swift and widespread retaliation. The NDFB(s), which has just about 250-300 hardcore cadres, has recently been strengthened by the return of some newly-trained members, male and female, from their training camps in Myanmar.

Intelligence sources say the newly-returned cadres from Myanmar were told to demonstrate their capability in Tuesday’s multiple attacks. Apart from testing the new cadres, the NDFB has also succeeded in its twin objectives: spreading terror in the area and sending a message to the government that as an organisation it is still potent.

The targets were chosen carefully. The biggest attack was on a remote Adivasi settlement at Phulbari, north of the Pabohi reserve forest in Sonitpur district, close to the Arunachal Pradesh border. There is hardly any police presence in the vicinity. Moreover, the location is far removed from NDFB’s known area of influence.

But while the police and security forces can be excused for not anticipating the attack on the Phulbari settlement, there is no reason why attacks in Kokrajhar district( where the NDFB is dominant) were not prevented especially since Assam’s DG of Police Khagen Sarma has been quoted as saying that there were some alerts about possible attacks in select pockets.

The NDFB had apparently issued a press statement too warning of retaliatory attacks. In their defence, the authorities say, they had strengthened security in Muslim-dominated areas, since in the recent past, the Muslims have been targeted by the NDFB.

As an excuse, this is feeble. For over two decades, terrorists from the Bodo areas belonging to different outfits–Bodo Security Force, Bodoland Liberation Tigers and different factions of NDFB–have targeted strands of non-Bodos in lower Assam,  including Muslims, Bengalis, Assamese and Adivasis. This information and background is known to the police and state government. Not providing adequate security to all these vulnerable groups is a big failure on the part of the Tarun Gogoi government.