Separatist Rebels in Assam, India, Kill Over 60 Villagers Within an Hour, in One of the Bloodiest Incidents of Ethnic Violence in the State
In India's north-eastern region lies a restive state that on Wednesday, experienced a killing spree as separatist rebels in Assam, India killed at least 62 people, including 10 women and 13 children, on Tuesday. Survivors said militants, equipped with heavy firearms, launched a series of coordinated strikes in the Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts in Assam, wrenching villagers from their homes and shooting them at point-blank range. All victims are Adivasis, a term applied to India's indigenous tribes, and comprise both Muslims and Christians.
The police have placed responsibility for the attacks on the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a militant group that, for years, has been fighting for for a separate homeland for indigenous Bodo tribesmen, whose population makes up 10 percent of the 33 million in the state.
On Wednesday, armed with crude weapons like machetes and bows and arrows, infuriated Adivasis stormed police stations in Sonitpur, the area worst hit by the violence, carrying the victims' coffins, reported The Guardian. Protestors, defying an indefinite curfew set by authorities following the killing spree, took to the street to express their anger at the authorities' failure to protect them. Some set shops ablaze and blocked a railway line and roads.
The police, in an attempt the disperse the incensed crowd, opened fire and killed three more Adivasis.
The attacks also saw at least 250 people reported missing in one of the bloodiest episodes of ethnic violence in Assam. Over the space of an hour, the rebel militants carried out the random attacks that killed dozens, in what the chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi told AFP:
This is one of the most barbaric attacks in recent times with the militants not even sparing infants.
The country's home minister, Rajnath Singh, vowed an all-out offensive against the NDFB, adding that 5,000 paramilitary personnel have been sent to Assam to assist the state government. The Times of India reported that after a high-level meeting in New Delhi attended by top officials of ministries of home, defense and paramilitary forces, Singh told reporters:
This was an act of terror and we will deal with it accordingly... Whatever action is required, we will take.
Assam is one of seven states in India's northeast region, where rebel groups have been mired in fights with both the government and each other. Reuters reported that residents accuse the central government of ravaging their land's resources and neglecting development. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who on Wednesday condemned the massacre as "an act of cowardice," expressed grief over the loss of lives.
In November, Modi traveled to the northeast to meet with top officials regarding the development of a new railway line and a power project. However, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told Reuters that the violence had to stop first:
There can no development until there is peace.
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