Rebels continue to target Hindi-speakers in Assam


Guwahati : Separatists continued with their killing spree, gunning down six Hindi-speaking migrant workers in Assam Sunday, taking the toll in the weeklong coordinated attacks ahead of Independence Day celebrations to 36, officials said.

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The latest in a string of attacks on migrant workers was late Sunday when heavily armed militants killed two Hindi-speakers at Karbi Anglong district’s Parokhowa village, about 280 km east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

“A group of rebels numbering about six to eight raided the village and killed two Hindi-speaking traders using automatic weapons,” A. Das, a police official, said.

Just before dawn Sunday, rebels in Rongmong Ghat village in the same district shot dead four Hindi-speaking people, including a woman.

“The militants dragged the victims out of their beds, tied their hands and later shot dead all of them outside their homes,” Lajja Ram Bishnoi, deputy inspector general of police in Karbi Anglong district, told IANS over telephone.

Three of those killed belonged to a Marwari family originally hailing from Rajasthan and another from Bihar – both the families were petty shopkeepers residing in Assam for decades.

“The attack took place in a densely forested area with the militants taking advantage of terrain,” the official said.

The police blamed the attacks on the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF), both working in tandem in parts of Karbi Anglong district.

This is the first time militants have targeted Marwaris – in the past the attacks were directed against migrant workers from Bihar.

“So far 28 Hindi-speaking people have been killed in the district since Wednesday,” Bishnoi said.

Stepped up attacks and a wave of bombings since Aug 5 has so far claimed 36 lives and wounded close to 50 people.

Rebels in Karbi Anglong district had killed 22 Hindi-speakers in two separate raids on Wednesday and Friday.

The state has also witnessed at least 10 separate bombings and raids in the last one week killing eight civilians, most of them local Assamese.

The attacks are reminiscent of the wave of killings by the ULFA in January in which about 80 people, most of them Hindi-speakers, were killed.

Thousands of migrant workers from Bihar and Rajasthan have made Assam their home for decades and doing business or odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishermen, and as daily wage earners.

The ULFA, a rebel group fighting for an independent homeland since 1979, had earlier vowed to free the state of all non-Assamese workers saying people from outside the state were eating into local jobs.

“There are mindless killings targeting innocent civilians. Violence and killings cannot help resolve any issues,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS.

The Assam government has announced a massive military deployment in the area and pledged to thwart further attacks linked to the upcoming Independence Day celebrations Wednesday.

Rebels in insurgency-hit Assam, the largest among the seven northeastern states, have for years been boycotting the Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations to protest the central government’s rule over the vast region rich in oil, tea and timber.

The run-up to the national days has always been violent, with ULFA rebels striking vital installations including crude oil pipelines, trains and road and rail bridges, besides targeting federal soldiers.

More than 30 rebel armies operate in the northeastern states, their demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.