Assam Fear: He Saw His Neighbours Slit His Brother's Throat

The house of a Bodo villager set ablaze by tribals in Assam's Balidaga. (Press Trust of India)

Kokrajhar: Phuren Basimatry has seen enough blood and guts in his days as a gunner in the army. But nothing had prepared the retired artillery man for Tuesday's events.

His brother was first shot with an arrow, then was struck with a spear and then fell when his throat was slit. He did not stand a chance.

And then, their homes were burnt.

Fifty-year-old Phuren says the anguish and loss is compounded by fact that those who brutally killed his brother are his neighbours. "We never had any problems, when they surrounded us we pleaded with then. But they were firm on getting their revenge. As I ran away I could see my brother fall," says Phuren, still in a stupor.

Three days after the outlawed NDFB(S) or National Democratic Front of Bodoland's Songbijit faction struck almost simultaneously across Kokrajhar, Chirang and Sonitpur Districts of Assam killing over 80 people, an uneasy peace between Bodos and Adivasis has given way to massive fear as old wounds are reopened by the massacre.

"We were butchered in 1996, I was a young boy then. But are we animals that massacre and killings are only destined for us," said Mongol Kisthu, a 20 year old Adivasi. There was no violence near his village, but fearing an attack they have fled to relief camps in Garubhasa in Chirang Distrct.

Just a few kilometers away from the relief camp where Mongol Kistu and his family are now staying, Bodos have gathered at a primary school. Like the Adivasis, they too have fled their villages fearing an attack from the tribals.

"We left our village four days ago after the attack," Dhrameshwar Basumatri said. There hasn't been any major incidence of violence for the past few days except for some incidents of houses being burnt, but neither Basumatri nor the thousands others who have gathered at the 26 relief camps across Chirang and Kokrajhar are willing to go back home.

The Indian Army has been flooded with hoax calls warning about imminent attacks. "We have received at least 2000 hoax calls in the last two days," said Colonel PP Singh, who commands the 18 Mahar that is deployed in the area.

At Deoahri members of the two communities are camped around an Army Post just 500 meters from each other, fearful that other will attack. The Army Post is like a wall and they have camped on either side, but no one has tried to talk to the other side, so deep is the distrust and fear.

Across Chirang, Kokrajhar and Sonitpur peace is holding for now. But it is so fragile that even a minor incident or a rumour could undo it.
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