Guwahati : The Assam government Monday launched a massive anti-insurgency offensive after separatists killed 36 people in the past week, most of them Hindi-speaking people, while the panic stricken migrant workers have started fleeing the state fearing more terror attacks.
“The operation involving the army, police, and the paramilitary, has already begun and is aimed at flushing out militants holed up in bases in the eastern Karbi Anglong district,” a senior police official told IANS.
The decision to crackdown on separatist guerrillas was taken at a meeting of the Unified Command, involving top army and paramilitary commanders, besides the state police, held Monday in Assam’s main city Guwahati.
Top union home ministry officials, who arrived here to assess the security situation following stepped up rebel attacks, also attended the meeting.
Authorities have opened two relief camps to shelter migrant workers and have shifted more than 100 other families to safer areas.
“There are an estimated 200 Hindi-speaking people in two relief camps currently staying under police protection. We have also persuaded about 100 families to leave their homes and take shelter in safer areas,” Karbi Anglong district police chief Anurag Thanka told IANS. “These steps were being taken as a precautionary measure.”
There were four coordinated attacks beginning Wednesday in eastern Assam’s Karbi Anglong district in which 28 Hindi-speakers were killed – six of them gunned down in two separate attacks Sunday.
Most of the victims were from Bihar and Rajasthan who had made Assam their home for decades and were doing business or odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishermen, and daily wage earners.
Eight more civilians, most of them Assamese, were also killed in a series of explosions across the state linked to Independence Day celebrations.
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.
“The ULFA has set up several bases in Karbi Anglong with the help of the KLNLF and the two groups were involved in the attacks on Hindi-speakers,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.
Sunil Chauhan, a Bihari migrant working in a brick kiln in eastern Assam, has decided to leave the state. “People are being killed like cats and dogs. I don’t want to get killed here,” he said as he boarded a train out of Assam.
“Hindi-speaking people are scattered across the district, some of them residing in interior areas, making them soft targets for militants,” Lajja Ram Bishnoi, deputy inspector general of police in Karbi Anglong district, told IANS over telephone.
The army has intensified patrols and aerial surveillance across Assam, while police have set up roadblocks in towns and villages, besides conducting searches in areas known to be infested by militants.
“A maximum security alert was sounded and we are doing our best to control the situation,” the chief minister said.
The ULFA has been fighting for an independent homeland since 1979, while the KLNLF, active in eastern Assam, wants more autonomy for the region’s Karbi tribes.
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 events has always been violent, with rebels of the outlawed ULFA 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.