When unidentified gunmen attacked Bennabari, an indigenous Muslim village in Assam

Seven-year-old Suniya Begum is writhing in pain on a bed in the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). She suffered a wound caused by a bullet that pierced the right thigh. Her elder sister Sahirun Begum (14) is lying on the bed next with a bullet wound in the right leg. Both sustained injuries on Wednesday night when unidentified gunmen attacked Bennabari, an indigenous Muslim village, with 95 families in Baksa district. They fired indiscriminately and attacked some residents with machete.

“It was around 11.30 p.m. I was just reading a book after we had a late dinner following Iftar, while my parents, grandparents, brother and sister had just gone to bed. Suddenly I heard sounds of continuous gunshots just outside the house. My parents quickly got up and we got together and remained inside. After some time the gunshots stopped. My father thought the gunmen had left and just opened the front door when they fired a few rounds again, which hit me and my sister and then ....,” her voice choked, as Sahirun Begum narrated her ordeal. She stopped speaking halfway, looking helplessly at her mother and father, who tried to console her.

Traumatised

A Class IX student of the Monosha Balika Vidyalaya of the village, Sahirun has been on Ramadan fast for the past five days. Little Suniya, a Class IV student of the Mahatma Gandhi Prathamik Vidyalaya, a primary school in the village, was too traumatised to share anything, and cried every time she looked at her wound.

“They fired at least 100 rounds. When the firing stopped, I overheard them calling each other in Bodo language. I thought they had left the place. I just opened the door when I saw a group of about 20 people and they fired at me. The bullets missed me but hit my daughters who flanked me. I quickly closed the door. My brother called the police. The police arrived and an Army team also came and they took us first to the Mushalpur hospital for treatment of my daughters. From there, my daughters were referred to the Nalbari civil hospital and later this [Thursday] morning to the GMCH,” said Saiful Ali, who runs a petty shop to feed a family of eight that includes three daughters, a son and Ali’s father and mother.

Ali, who had recovered from a critical ailment just two months ago and had to spend Rs. 70,000 for treatment, could not understand why their village, on the three sides of which are three Bodo villages, was attacked. “We have been living in peace and harmony for ages. Even when there were clashes elsewhere not a single incident occurred in our area. We had never feared that there will be an attack on us,” Mr. Ali said. He said a youth, Abdul Momin, also sustained a bullet wound in the attack by gunmen on the village which is located about 6 km from the Masalpur police station.

Baksa is one of the four districts of the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) administered by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), a tribal council that enjoys powers under the amended provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The violence in four districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Dhubri and Bongaigaon spread to Baksa district on Wednesday night, with unidentified gunmen attacking this village.

Lying on a bed in a surgical ward is 18-year-old Lalchand Sheikh of Mashaner Alga char (a sand isle) in Dhubri district. He is recuperating from a wound caused by a bullet that pierced the right thigh.

“I was in a crowd of 400-500 from my village and other places which had gone to the Gaurang bazaar area to bring back some of our relatives and friends, who, we heard, have been attacked and their houses torched. As we were returning, some people armed with AK-47s fired upon us. I ran and took shelter in a house. Later, the police took me to the hospital,” said Lalchand, a higher secondary (first year) student of the Bilasipara College.

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