Guwahati: A day after killing dozens in three districts of Assam, militants belonging to Songbijit faction of the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) attacked new areas in the state on Wednesday and the death toll shot past 70, reports said.
Bir Bikram Gogoi, Superintendent of Police, Udalguri, said NDFB(S) militants opened fire at villagers and burnt houses in the district. One Adivasi person was injured in the firing, he added.
Following the attack, angry Adivasis set ablaze over 60 huts in Lamabari and the Udalguri weekly market, police said. In the clashes between the police and demonstrators, five more people were killed, taking the death toll past 70, reports said.
The fresh attack came even as Home Minister Rajnath Singh flew into Assam to review the situation.
Rajnath reached Guwahati in the evening with Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju. He reviewed the law and order situation with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Director General of Police Khagen Sarma, Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla and other heads of security forces in the state, the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) here said.
Rajnath Singh and Gogoi both said during the meeting that there will be no compromise on security and stringent steps will be taken to contain the situation.
"The Chief Minister requested for 55 companies of central paramilitary forces and the Home Minister agreed," sources said.
Gogoi also asked Rajnath Singh to institute a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), to which too the Home Minister agreed, the CMO said after the meeting.
The Home Minister will visit the violence affected districts on Thursday.
As per police, heavily armed NDFB(S) militants swooped down on remote Adivasi villages of the three Assam districts and killed 65 inhabitants Tuesday evening.
37 people were killed in Sonitpur district, 25 in Kokrajhar and three in Chirang district – 21 of them women and 18 children. Another 15 people were injured in total.
Taking serious note of the incident, the Centre rushed additional 5,000 paramilitary troops to Assam.
Advivasis retaliated today by torching houses and attacking a police station during protests that left three persons dead, allegedly in police firing.
A seven-kilometre stretch of National Highway 15 was blocked by Adivasi protestors near Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur. Police opened fire as angry protestors turned violent, a senior police official said.
Angry protestors also set ablaze 20 houses allegedly belonging to the people of the Bodo community in Phuloguriin Sonitpur district.
According to reports, two Bodos people were killed when the Adivasi people burnt a number of houses belonging to the community in Kokrajhar district. However, there was no official confirmation of the deaths.
Army has been deployed in all the violence-hit areas and is 'actively' involved in maintaining law and order situation since last night, a defence spokesperson said.
Curfew has been clamped in all the disturbed areas under Sonitpur, Chirang and Kokrajhar districts, police said.
Around 2,500 people have fled their homes and are staying in relief camps after the spate of attacks, officials said.
An all-out offensive will be launched against NDFB militants jointly by police, paramilitary forces and Army in the wake of the violence, sources said in Delhi.
PM condemns attack
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack by militants and termed the killing of innocent people as an act of cowardice.
The PM also sanctioned ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to each of the seriously injured.
Assam government also announced ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed, while Rs 50,000 will be given to all those injured in the attacks.
Decrying the "cowardly" killings before leaving for Assam, Rajnath Singh said it was a terror act and will be dealt accordingly.
Condemning the attacks, Rijiju said, "This is a blatant attack in a situation where it is not expected. The attack is on innocent people and the location of the attack in very remote and rural area."
Gogoi said that steps were being taken to prevent the situation from escalating.
He directed state ministers Neelamani Sen Deka and Basanta Das to visit Kokrajhar and ministers Rockybul Hussain, Tanka Bahadur Rai and Prithbi Majhi to Sonitpur district.
"Most barbaric and most henious crime these NDFB(S) group has committed. We have to deal with it firmly. We have to go in a big way so that the culprits are booked," the Chief Minister said, adding that the security agencies have been directed to provide protection to the people in "sensitive" areas, including those inhabited by Bodos.
He said the militants will no longer be allowed to "hit and run". "Neither the Government of Assam nor the Government of India will surrender to these militant groups. That's why we are asking for more paramilitary forces from the government of India," Gogoi said.
"Yesterday, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister assured me of all help," he added.
(With agency inputs)