People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 21, 2007
ULFA’s Death Dance In Assam
THE central government issued the much needed security clearance for holding the 33rd National Games, slated for February 9-18, 2007, in Guwahati and planned to allay fears spawned by United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). The banned outfit has called for a ‘boycott’ of the mega event or a modification of their nomenclature to ‘Asom Sports Festival’.
Pleased with the security blueprint prepared by the state government for the Games, union home secretary V K Duggal expressed confidence on January 4 that the event would be “safe, smooth and successful”.
The next day, January 5, at least 20 persons were killed by suspected ULFA extremists in a renewed spate of violence in Assam. The outfit killed the innocent people in coordinated attacks on the Hindi-speaking Bihari community. Most of the victims were daily labourers and workers of brick kiln, petty-traders and roadside vendors. The string of attacks took place in Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sibsagar districts of Upper Assam.
The latest issue of ULFA’s fortnightly, Freedom, pointedly refers to what it describes as the emergence of ‘mini-Rajasthan, mini-Bihar and mini-Kolkata’ on the soil of Assam and identifies the ‘enemy’. The stated objective of the ULFA is a ‘Sovereign and Independent Assam’.
Indeed, after the resumption of Army operations against ULFA in September 2006, Hindi-speaking people were its target in two bomb blasts late last year in Guwahati; the first on the outskirts of the city on October 28 (during Chhath Puja) and the second in the Fancy Bazar area on November 5, in which 15 persons were killed.
DANCE OF DEATH
This time the dance of death was enacted again during January 5-8, 2007. Workers of a brick kiln at Phakial Gaon, in Dibrugarh district, were the first to be targeted. It is reported that four militants raided the labour camps in the evening, burst a grenade and then gunned down three workers. Five persons were seriously wounded in the attack.
An hour after the first incident, suspected ULFA extremists shot dead five more workers in another brick kiln at Balijan under Duliajan police station in the same district. A 10-member group reportedly carried out the attack when the workers were huddled in their makeshift camp and were cooking their dinner.
Around the same time, another group of suspected ULFA extremists opened fire at the Hindi-speaking roadside vendors at Bandarkhati and Longsowal, under Doomdoma police station in Tinsukia district. Five persons died and seven more wounded.
On the same day, a blast rocked Dighaltarang under Doomdoma police station, killing yet another person and leaving three wounded. In another incident at Daisajan, Holoukhowa Govindapur Basti, about 16 km from Doomdoma town, a village defence party was fired upon. Two VDP men were seriously injured.
Suspected ULFA militants attacked the labourers of a brick kiln at Namphake village under Joypur police station with guns and grenades. The assailants first resorted to indiscriminate firing and then lobbed grenades at the victims. Three labourers died on the spot. Similarly, three brick kiln workers were killed on the spot in an attack by the extremists at Borhat Govindapur in Sibsagar district.
The mayhem continued the next day with fresh incidents in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh and the killing spree spread to other Upper Assam districts like Dhemaji, Golaghat etc. On January 6, the death toll has gone up to more than 50. Several groups of the banned outfit attacked innocent people, mostly poor Bihari workers, at nine places. The extremists turned Tinsukia district into a killing field with their killing spree at Langsowal, Daisajan, Dighalitarang and Diyamuli under Doomdoma plice station killing eleven persons. In another gruesome incident, ULFA killed 13 persons at Ghoramora Chapori, about 20 km from Sadiya police station. The victims were all dairy farmers and milk vendors. In another incident, they killed two persons at Bijulibon under Pengeri police station of Tinsukia district.
The ULFA extremists gunned down six dairy farmers at Sakia Chapori located on the border of Dibrugarh and Dhemaji district in the early morning of January 6. It is reported that the milkmen were about to board a boat to ferry milk to Dibruarh when the extremists struck.
After targeting migrant brick kiln workers, vendors and daily-wage labourers in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia since January 5, the ULFA singled out Bihari people again at two places in neighbouring Sibsagar district on January 8. The first incident occurred in a remote hamlet, Mahmora Konwar Gaon. The assailants dragged out 11 people staying together in a house, lined them up and opened fire from AK-47 and AK-56 rifles. Eight of the daily wage earners died and two were critically wounded.
The second incident occurred at Chakalia, near Sepon town. Three extremists attacked a makeshift camp of brick kiln workers and shot dead one of them while two others were wounded. Then the assailants ran into a police patrol team on their way back, leading to an exchange of fire near Seapon market. In Golaghat district, two persons were killed at Jaljuri, under Borpathar police station on January 8.
The attacks were not confined to Upper Assam alone. The ULFA also struck terror in Kokrajhar district in Lower Assam on January 7 and gunned down one person at Kachugaon. With these killings, the toll in the orgy of violence from January 5 to 8 increased to more than 60 and the horror story continued.
After four days of targeting hapless Hindi-speaking Bihari people, ULFA extremists triggered two blasts in the vicinity of Army cantonment at Narengi, Guwahati as if to show that they can strike anywhere, anytime. Eleven people were wounded, two of them critically, in the twin explosions at Satgaon market,barely 100 metres from the entrance to the Narengi cantonment. One person later succumbed to his injuries after being admitted into the Guwahati Medical College Hospital.
MIGRANT LABOURERS FLEEING, ARMY IN ACTION
The death-toll in the recent mayhem has gone up to 71 at the time of writing this. According to official figures, it is 62. (Tinsukia - 33, Dibrugarh - 13, Sibsagar - 7, Dhemaji - 6, Golaghat -2, Kokrajhar -1). Huddled in buses and trains, Hindi-speaking migrant workers have begun fleeing Assam in batches for fear of being the next targets. Around 8,000 terror-stricken people have taken shelter in relief camps being opened across the carnage zone in the districts of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and elsewhere. The sense of insecurity still prevails and the state administration has utterly failed to protect the lives and properties of the people.The ULFA’s hate campaign and the resultant exodus of migrant workers has hit the economy of Assam to a great extent. The ongoing railway projects, brick production and building construction, dairy farming, industrial production etc. have been badly affected in many parts of the state.
From January 8, the Army intensified operations against the ULFA in Upper Assam by deploying over 10,000 troops. The Army has been given the go-ahead for massive retribution to the killings of migrant workers by ULFA extremists, signalling a shift in Delhi’s policy to bring the extremist group to the talking table.
MOUNTING PROTEST AND ANGER
Braving curfew, thousands of people blocked the National Highway at Longsowal and blockaded the bridge over the Doomdoma river on January 7, in protest against the massacre of 10 innocent people by the ULFA in the area, even as the union minister of state for home, Jaiswal held a meeting with the protesters. The unrelenting protesters had with them the bodies of the nine dead and shouted slogans against the ULFA and the state administration.
Similar protest actions were held in several parts of the state to condemn the dastartly killings. All sections of the people, the Assamese community in particular, condemned the heinous acts and came out on to the streets to give vent to their anger at the carnage. The people were concerned to see that the peace and unity of the people is not disturbed and the social fabric of the state is not harmed any further.
While condemning the “acts of savagery and brutality” perpetrated by the ULFA, the Assam unit of the CPI(M) came down heavily on the Congress-led government for its utter failure to protect the lives and properties of the people. The local Party units organised protest meetings at various places including Guwahati, Tezpur, Barpeta Road, Nagaon, Silchar etc. and mobilised public opinion against the fresh offensives of the ULFA.
On January 8, a peace procession was jointly organised by 12 non-Congress, non-BJP and non-AGP parties: the AGP (P), NCP, AUDF, PLP, SP, JD(S), JD(U), RSP, RCPI, CPI(M-L)-Liberation etc. The CPI(M) also joined with this 12-party combination on the single issue of condemning acts of terror and to mobilise public opinion for negotiated settlement of the ULFA problem. Several thousand people participated in the massive action. Later, a public meeting was also held in the city in which leaders of various political parties expressed their views on the recent killings.
Addressing the huge gathering, the CPI(M) state secretary Uddhab Barman condemned the ULFA in no uncertain terms and demanded stern action against the perpetrators of such heinous crimes. He also severely criticised the Tarun Gogoi government and its administration for failing to contain extremist violence in the state. The CPI(M), however, distanced itself from other parties on many counts. While demanding stern administrative measurers, the CPI(M) leader urged upon both the ULFA and the central government to come forward for dialogue without any pre-condition in order to seek political solution to the problem.
SEEKING TO GAIN POLITICAL MILEAGE
Some political parties are working overtime to garner political mileage out of the situation. The major opposition, the AGP, has been demanding imposition of president’s rule in the state and is softening its attitude towards ULFA. The party has also demanded withdrawal of Army operations in Assam.
Most of the 12-party combination, too, has been trying to fish in troubled waters and demanding resignation of the Congress-led government. Amongst the Left, the CPI has seen the presence of a ‘third force’ behind the carnage and has given a clean chit to the ULFA.
Taking advantage of the situation, the saffron brigade has stepped up its aggressive hate campaigns with evil designs to divide the people on communal lines. Hindu migrants are being killed and evicted to create space for “Bangladeshi infiltrators and Islamic State” has been the cry of the Hindutva forces. It is, however, heartening to note that large sections of the people have came out openly against the saffron brigade. At Sibsagar town, on January 10, several thousands of people, cutting across religious and ethnic lines, chased away members of an outfit of the Hindutva forces when they tried to take out a procession and distribute leaflets to create communal tensions. Later, under tremendous public pressure, the district administration was forced to arrest the key leader of the outfit – the ‘Lok Jagaran Mancha’.
ANTI TERRORISM DAY
As part of its campaign against terrorism, the Assam state committee of the CPI(M) called upon all sections of the people to observes ‘Anti-Terrorism Day’ on January 19 next by holding meetings, processions etc. throughout the state. This was stated in a press conference held in Guwahati on January 11.
In the press communique, the CPI(M) stated, “Targetting the poor and innocent labourers of a particular community strikes at the root of democracy and democratic unity of the people of Assam and the country as a whole. The forces of reaction and evil will certainly take advantage of the situation and try to divide the people on communal and linguistic lines.” It further states, “The ULFA should respect the sentiment of the people and shun violence. It should also come forward for direct talks with the government without any pre-condition.”
CPI(M) TEAM VISITS CARNAGE ZONE
A CPI(M) team led by state secretary Uddhab Barman and secretariat members Suprakash Talukdar and Ajit Das visited worst affected Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts from January 12. They shared their shock and grief with the inmates of the Kaliapani camp at Doomdoma and addressed a press conference held in the district Party office of the CPI(M).
On January 13, two CPI(M) MPs, Amitabh Nandi and Sudhansu Seal also came to Dibrugarh district and visited relief camps at Chabua, Tingrai, Lahowal etc and took stock of the situation. Ajit Das accompanied the Party’s parliamentary delegation. They also met the injured persons in the Assam Medical College at Dibrugarh.
On hearing the horror story, the CPI(M) delegation expressed sympathy with the families of the victims and demanded adequate compensation and rehabilitation for them. They also demanded safety and security to the people.
(January 17, 2007)