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Killing of 5 Bangla-speaking workers in Assam sparks protests, strikes

  • Published at 01:16 pm November 2nd, 2018
Assam
Activists of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) shout slogans during a protest in Guwahati against the killings of five Bengali-speaking men on Friday REUTERS

No militant outfit claimed responsibility for the incident that took place in Dhola Thursday night

Mass protests are expected in the Tinsukia district of the northeastern Indian state of Assam today after five Bangla-speaking workers were shot dead by a group of unidentified assailants yesterday. 

According to police, a group of assailants possessing sophisticated firearms called out five people from a tea stall in Kheroni village of Tinsukia at around 8pm, as they were playing ludo. 

The culprits fired indiscriminately on the victims, and then fled the scene under the cover of darkness. 

The victims were named as Shyamlal Biswas, Ananta Biswas, Abhinash Biswas, Subal Biswas and Dhananjoy Namasudra. 

A claim by law enforcers that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-Independent) was responsible for the murders was denied by the group in a press release.  

The press release read: “We, the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent), would like to make it clear to all concerned authorities that our organization does not have any involvement in the firing incident that occurred on Thursday at Sadiya Saikhowaghat in Tinsukia district.”

Strikes, protests announced

The Silchar District Congress Committee called for a 12-hour Cachar district bandh to be observed on Saturday. 

“The killing of those five innocent people in Tinsukia is awful,” Pradip Dey, president of the Silchar District Congress Committee, told this correspondent. 

“The state government has been unable to contain inflammatory comments being exchanged on the backdrop of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and NRC update.”

A total of 103 organisations, led by Northeast Linguistic and Ethnic Coordination Committee (NELECC), have also called for a 12-hour bandh to be observed on Saturday under the banner of “Rashtravadi Joutho Manch”.

All Cachar Karimganj Hailakandi Students Association (ACKHSA) also followed suit, by calling for a 12-hour bandh to be observed in all the three districts of Barak Valley- Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi today.

Meanwhile, the All Assam Bengali Youth Students’ Federation called for a 24-hour Assam bandh to be observed.

‘Strong action will be taken’

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal denounced the killings and conveyed his sympathy to the bereaved families. 

“Strong action will be taken against the perpetrators of this dastardly violence,” he said. 

“We will not tolerate such a cowardly act (and) will take strong action against the perpetrators of this heinous crime. I have directed all law enforcing agencies to maintain peace and take stern action against anybody trying to destabilize our peaceful society and state.”

Assam’s cabinet minister Keshab Mahanta has announced a compensation of Rs5 lakh for the families of the deceased.

Reuters reported that Mamata Banerjee, a staunch critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will hold rallies to protest the killings across the Bengali-majority state of West Bengal, where it holds power.

India's northeastern state of Assam, home to 33 million people, has suffered years of violence as residents, including tribal groups, have clashed with suspected Hindu and Muslim settlers they accuse of plundering resources and grabbing jobs.

BJP legislator from Assam’s Silchar constituency and former deputy speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly, Dilip Kumar Paul, blamed the government for the latest killings.