Rebels Without a Cause
A legitimate government under the Indian constitution has the basic responsibility to ensure the protection of life and property of its population and if the citizens come forward raising voices against the insurgent (turned terrorist) outfits, it becomes the primary duty of the administration to provide security to those cognizant civilians.
For any reason, if the government and administration can sleep over such developments, one might (should) term them not as inefficient, but as being cowardly and surrendering to the militants.
The recent massacre of fifteen villagers, including women and children, at Bhimajuli of Sonitpur district in central Assam, can show, on one hand the barbaric attitude of the armed militant groups and on the other hand, the callousness on the part of the government and the administration.
The armed cadres of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Ranjan Daimary faction) have proved beyond doubt that they have totally lost their direction and wisdom and slowly they have turned themselves into merciless killing machines, but without logic and heroism.
At the same time, it reveals how the state government, even after knowing that the Bhimajuli residents might face terror attacks because of non-payment of extortion money to the banned armed militants, could ignore till the gun overpowers them.
The people of Bhimajuli in Balichang area, which is around 300 km away from Guwahati, decided in a public meeting recently that they would no longer entertain the demands of the militants and hence would not pay the extortion money to the outfits.
It is mentionable here that the NDFB cadres distributed leaflets in the locality, where mainstream Assamese, Bodo, Tea tribe people and Gorkhalis (Nepali) live in harmony, and demanded huge amount of money from the residents.
But the strong message from the poor villagers was annoying (and unacceptable) to the militants and so they retaliated on the 4th of October.
Over ten people belonging to various communities lost their lives on the spot, as the NDFB rebels fired on them indiscriminately on that fateful evening.
The gory incident tempted the villagers of Bhimajuli and the adjacent areas to lodge a protest against the police inaction during the militant attack. Hundreds of local residents gathered in front of the Balichang police outpost and expressed their anger against the administration.
The tension was heightened as the local people got almost polarized between the Bodo tribe and non-Bodos. Finally the Army personnel had to be deployed in the locality to bring the situation to normalcy.
The massacre was shocking and it attracted massive media attention. Understanding the gravity of the situation, the Assam government ministers like Dr Bhumidhar Barman, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, Bharat Narah with the state police chief Shankar Barua rushed to the spot. The state Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi visited the location on the 9th of October and talked to the victims’ families. Acknowledging the failure on the part of the administration in ensuring safety to the people and pragmatic actions against the militancy, Gogoi declared a compensation of rupees five lakh each to the nearest relatives of the victims.
The incident invited quick and harsh reaction from political parties to advocacy and civil society groups. The main opposition political party in the state Asom Gana Parishad chief CM Patowary came out with strong words against the Chief Minister (as he also looks after the state’s Home portfolio) for his failure to protect the lives and property of the common people in the state.
The AGP’s electoral partner in Assam, Bharatiya Janata Party (Assam unit) sent a memorandum to the President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, where it alleged that the Tarun Gogoi led government had failed to take affective initiatives and measures to curb the escalating violence created by various armed militants in the state.
Asserting that the tenure of Tarun Gogoi as the Chief Minister witnessed the highest number of murders (11,170), kidnappings (15,415) and even rape cases (9,687), the state BJP president Ramen Deka urged for the President’s intervention to the worsening socio-political situation in the state.
Various protest programmes were organized by the influential All Assam Students’ Union, All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union, All Assam Tea Tribe Students’ Association against the slaughter of people by the militants. The student organizations also criticized the government for its failure in its responsibility to protect the lives of citizens and bringing peace and sustained normalcy to the state. The Nirjyatan Birodhi Oikya Mancha, Gorkha Janamukti Morcha with many other organizations also condemned the attack on innocent people by the armed militant groups.
Lately the journalists with eminent citizens, artists and social activists marched in the city streets to register their protest against terrorist brutality in Bhimajuli. They gathered at the Guwahati Press Club premises on the 15th of October and later paraded shouting slogans including ‘Hang the Terrorists’, ‘Down with Terrorism’, ‘We condemn Government Inaction,’ ‘Stop killing the Children’ etc.
Earlier a brief meeting was organized at the press club campus, which was addressed by the esteemed senior citizens namely Tulsi Govinda Baruah and Dhirendra Nath Chakrabarty. Both the speakers deplored the callous attitude of the administration and the government in dealing with the issue of terrorism.
The protesters came out following an appeal by a group of senior citizen-journalists to the people against the violent activities endorsed by all armed groups of the region. The appeal, signed by DN Bezboruah (former editor of The Sentinel and former chairman of Editors’ Guild of India), DN Chakrabarty (former editor of Dainik Asom, Ajir Batori and Natun Dainik), Nirupama Borgohain (academy award winner littérateur and columnist), TG Baruah (chairman of The Assam Tribune group of newspapers) with Hiten Mahanta, Rupam Baruah, Mihir Deuri, Ranen K Goswami, Pramod Kalita, Sabita Lahkar, Mukul Kalita, N. Thakuria asserted that the armed cadres of the region had shown no respect for human values, as they could attack even children for their vested interests and hence those rebels should be dealt with using a firm hand.
On the other hand, even after knowing that the residents of Bhimajuli area had decided not to pay extortion money to the militants in a public meeting, the administration failed to provide proper security arrangements for the villagers. The appeal concluded saying, “The authority turned a blind eye to the issue and thus surrendered to the gun-totting youth of the banned organization. And because of the reckless attitude and inaction on the part of the state government, over ten people, including women and children had to lose their precious lives.”