“A desperate bid by militants to send out a message to Centre”

All five persons slain in Friday night’s attack on bus passengers by militants of the National Democratic Front of Boroland(Songbjit) in Assam’s Kokrajhar district were Hindi speaking persons. They as also the three injured were singled out from other passengers before the militants sprayed bullets on them.

The Inspector-General of the Bodoland Territorial Area District range, L.R. Bisnoi told The Hindu that the militants, numbering 10-12, stopped the bus at Ramfalbil, lined up the nine Hindi speaking passengers, and fired at them after asking them to run for their lives.

The condition of one of the injured, whose liver had been ruptured by bullets, was stated to be critical.

The police have picked up about 15 persons from nearby villages for suspected links with the militant outfit and providing logistics support to the assailants.

The NDFB(Songbijit) militants had been waiting to ambush a police vehicle. As no police vehicle passed by, they chose a soft target and, after , singling out the nine Hindi-speaking passengers, asked the driver to proceed with the rest, who belonged to other communities. The militants then sprayed bullets on the victims from behind, Mr Bisnoi said, quoting the injured passengers.

Empty cartridges of both AK series and Insas rifles were found at the spot. .

The attack appeared to be in retaliation for the killing of three hardcore cadres of the outfit in an encounter with police and security forces earlier in the day, said Mr Bisnoi

The IGP said the police had identified the self-styled platoon commander B. Jablang as the leader of the gang behind the attack. Condemning the incident, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi directed Director-General of Police Khagen Sarma to launch a full-scale operation to apprehend the killers and to deploy additional forces, if required, for maintenance of law and order and to thwart any sabotage attempt by militants in the run-up to the Republic Day.

G.M. Srivastava, a security expert and Security Adviser to the Chief Minister, said the NDFB(Songbijit) militants carried out the attack in a bid to create a communal rift by making Hindi- speaking people their soft targets. They resorted to such tactics of going on the offensive when their strength weakened due to reverses suffered in counter-insurgency operations by the Assam police and security forces. They targeted Hindi-speaking people in their desperate bid to send out a message to Delhi, he said.

Kokrajhar Superintendent of Police Sunil Kumar said four slain passengers were identified as Pupu Kumar Singh(27), Ahat Bihari Giri(20), Rasbihari Giri(19), from Chapra district of Bihar, and Somser Mantri(20) from Siwan district, also in Bihar. The injured were Ramanand Ojha(35) from Siwan, Anmol Gupta (17) from Chapra and Babulal Karmakar(45) from Murshidabad in West Bengal.

Home Secretary G.D. Tripathi said an ex gratia of Rs. 6 lakh (Rs 3 lakh by the State Government and Rs 3 lakh by the Centre) would be provided to the next of kin of the five dead. The State government would bear the cost of treatment of the injured.