The Gorkha community of Assam in Northeast India will observe 4th October as a Black Day denouncing terrorism. Under the banner of All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union, the Nepali origin people will take out silent processions around the State remembering the victims of Bhimajuli massacre. The relatively unknown village Bhimajuli became infamous for the massacre of Nepali speaking people by the Bodo militants on the night of October 4, 2009 in the Sonitpur district of central Assam. The representative of the students’ organization will also visit the victim families in Bhimajuli to express their solidarities towards the affected populace.
The fateful night witnessed a horrible carnage of 13 villagers including 7 Gorkhas by the cadres belonged to National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Ranjan Daimary faction) at Bhimajuli near Balichang police outpost under Biswanath Chariali subdivision of Sonitpur district. The incident was condemned by every one in Assam. Even a group of journalists in Guwahati organized a protest rally denouncing the barbaric attitude of the armed militants and on the other hand, the callousness on the part of the government and the administration.
Mentionable that the residents of Bhimajuli, around 300 km northeast of Guwahati, decided in a public meeting that they would no longer entertain the demands of the militants and hence would not pay the extortion money to the outfits. The NDFB cadres distributed leaflets in the locality, where mainstream Assamese, Bodo, Tea tribe people and Gorkhas live in harmony, and demanded huge amount of money from them. The strong message from the poor villagers was however depressing (and unacceptable) to the militants and so they retaliated with the act of violence. The NDFB rebels fired on them indiscriminately on that fateful evening. The tension was also 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 thenAssamgovernment ministers including Dr Bhumidhar Barman, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, Bharat Narah with the state police chief Shankar Barua rushed to the spot. The chief minister Tarun Gogoi visited the location on the October 9 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, the chief minister 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, who was also in charge of Home affairs, for his failure to protect the lives and property of the common people in the state. The Bharatiya Janata Party (Assamunit) sent a memorandum to the Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, where it alleged that the Gogoi led government had failed to take affective initiatives and measures to curb the escalating violence created by various armed militants in the state.
Various protest programmes were organized by the influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), All Assam Tea Tribe Students’ Association (AATTSU) with All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union against the slaughtering of people. 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. Later 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 Guwahati Press Club premises on the October 15, 2009 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 (chairman of The Assam Tribune group of newspapers) and D N Chakrabarty (former editor of Dainik Asom). 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 D N Bezboruah (former editor of The Sentinel and former chairman of Editors’ Guild of India), Nirupama Borgohain (academy award winner littérateur and columnist) 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.
The senior journalists further observed that even after knowing that the residents of Bhimajuli came under threat from militants after they had decided not to pay extortion money to NDFB ultras in a public meeting held in the area on October 1, 2009, the administration failed to adopt proper security measures to shield the innocent villagers from the ultras. Taking advantage of the situation and inaction on part of the administration, gun toting cadres of the banned militant group killed 13 innocent villagers, including women and children, besides maiming many for the rest of their life.
Today, the NDFB leader Ranjan Daimary is in jail after his arrest in Bangladesh and subsequent handing over to Indian agency by Dhaka. Following the footsteps of other militant outfits, both factions of NDFB are preaching for peace talks with the central government. Mr Daimary is expecting bail soon to activate the peace initiative.
Nanda Kirati Dewan, publicity secretary of AAGSU, while talking to this correspondent, appealed to all section in Assamese society to participate in the protest against terrorism with candlelight gathering in their localities on the evening of October 4 amidst the Durga Puja festivities. He concluded saying, “May this Durgoutsav and the blessings of Goddess Durga bring permanent peace, harmony and tranquility in Assam with progress and development as desired.”