The family members of 18 people killed by suspected Bodo rebels in India’s northeastern Assam state have finally buried their dead after the government promised to punish the culprits and provide security, according to local media reports.
Earlier on Sunday, they had refused to bury the bodies, demanding that the state’s chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, visit their area.
Police said on Sunday that they had killed three suspected rebels and arrested eight forest guards for the alleged involvement in the killings of 32 people in three separate attacks in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts.
Two rebels were killed in a dense forest near Tejpur district, while the third was killed in an exchange of fire in Udalguri district, AP news agency reported.
Senior Assam police official, AP Raut, told Times of India newspaper that “the situation was fast improving”.
The state government is planning to hand over the probe into the killings to the federal investigating agency, National Investigation Agency.
“We are sending the official letter to the Union home ministry this evening. An NIA team will be discussing the matter with the state government on Monday,” state home commissioner and secretary GD Tripathi was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
Contempt for human lives
Rights body, Amnesty International has condemned the deadly attacks, terming the act as shameful and displaying contempt for human lives. “Authorities in Assam must take action to protect the rights of all communities and bring those responsible for the attacks to justice,” it said.
On Saturday, authorities called in the army to restore order after suspected Bodo separatists killed at least 32 people from the minority Muslim community in two days of violence that began late on Thursday.
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Rasida Khatum, who was injured in one attack, said the attackers made her and other 30-40 people stand on the riverside before they started shooting at them.
“I somehow managed to escape with my child, but they shot dead three people in front of my eyes, though many others have died too”, she said from a hospital bed.
Tensions have been high since a local Bodo leader criticised Muslims for not voting for the Bodo candidate, said Lafikul Islam Ahmed, leader of a Muslim youth organisation called the All Bodoland Muslim Students’ Union.
Rebels from the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-S, who have been fighting for a separate homeland, are believed to have started the mayhem in twin districts of Baksa and Kokrajhar from May 1.
Thousands of people have fled their homes for safety.
The five-week general election has exacerbated friction over migration in Assam. Candidates, including prime ministerial front-runner, Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party have called for tighter border controls.
Modi on Sunday reiterated his strong stance against illegal immigrants even as people were grieving from the latest attacks.
“You are concerned about infiltrators and not your own people … they must go back, they are robbing the youths of India of their livelihood,” Modi told the rally in West Bengal, which borders Assam.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has condemned the attacks and his ruling Congress party accused Modi of making divisive comments.