Other States

They spoke with us in Hindi, says lone survivor of Assam gunfire that killed five

A hollow in the ground helped Sahadeb Namasudra survive a gunfire in which five of his friends were killed on Thursday night.

Sahadeb, a daily wager in his 20s, was playing a video game on his mobile phone at a shop where his friends assemble almost every day before heading home in Bisnimukh-Kherbari in eastern Assam’s Sadiya police district.

The village is close to the Bhupen Hazarika Setu or Dhola-Sadiya bridge, currently India’s longest bridge, which was recently inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Half hour after returning from work and gathering at the shop at 7:30 pm, Sahadeb and Ananta Namasudra, Abinash Namasudra, Subal Das, Dhanai or Dhananjoy Namasudra and Syamal Biswas saw three motorcycles stop near the shop.

Used to seeing soldiers and paramilitary personnel, the six were not alarmed when six people in military fatigues approached them. Each wielded a rifle and had his face covered by black cloth.

“They spoke with us in Hindi and asked us to accompany them. A woman and her child at the shop were told to stay put,” Sahadeb said.

The six armed men ordered them to sit on a spot under the bridge about 250-300 yards from the shop. “I sensed trouble when one of them snatched my mobile phone after I switched on the torch,” he said.

“The armed men were speaking in Assamese among themselves, but switched to Hindi whenever someone had something to tell us. The others did not want to sit, and this angered the assailants,” Sahadeb said.

The guns blazed a few seconds later. Simultaneously, Sahadeb’s foot landed in a ditch. Some bullets whizzed past his head as he fell and became unconscious.

“They probably thought I was dead. The bodies of my friends, oozing blood, were still warm when I regained consciousness,” he said.

ULFA leaders detained

The Assam police on Friday detained two senior leaders of the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for provocative statements against Bengali Hindus. While Mrinal Hazarika was picked up in Guwahati, Jiten Dutta was detained at Gourisagar in eastern Assam’s Sivasagar district.

On October 24, Mr. Hazarika said that Bengali people who support the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 would face a Nellie-like situation, referring to the massacre of more than 2,000 migrants at the height of the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation in February 1983. Mr Dutta had made similar statements.

“The police have swung into action, carrying out combing operations and detaining people for provocative statements. We will ensure no one responsible for the killings is spared,” Assam’s Director General of Police Kuladhar Saikia said after visiting the Kherbari area with top officials on Friday morning.

Tapan Gogoi, one of the Ministers whom Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal sent to the spot, admitted that the killings could have been the outcome of incendiary remarks by “forces bent upon creating a divide between the Assamese and Bengalis in Assam.”

Former CM Tarun Gogoi's charge against BJP MLA

Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi held BJP legislator Shiladitya Dev equally responsible for ''fuelling hatred leading to bloodshed.'' He said, “The government must also take action against the MLA like it did against the ULFA leaders.”

Mr. Dev, in turn, blamed the two pro-talks ULFA leaders for Thursday night’s killing. “Bengalis are not the enemies of the Assamese people, but certain elements are trying to project otherwise,” he said, urging New Delhi to suspend peace talks with the pro-talks ULFA.

Thursday’s incident was suspected to have been carried out by the fugitive ULFA-Independent headed by Paresh Baruah, particularly after it claimed responsibility for a pre-Durga Puja blast in Guwahati that injured five people. That blast, the outfit said, was to make a statement against “those who oppose National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill”.

On Friday morning, about 10 hours after the killing, the ULFA-I issued a statement denying its involvement in the incident.

Compensation

The Assam government on Friday announced Rs 5 lakh as compensation for each of the five people killed.

On Friday, the Bengali United Forum of Assam called a 24-hour shutdown on Saturday across the State to protest the killing. The Bengali Yuba Chhatra Parishad, which imposed a 12-hour bandh in Tinsukia district on Friday, has lent support.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 7:12:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/they-spoke-in-hindi-with-us-says-the-lone-survivor-of-assam-killing/article25401431.ece

Next Story