Guwahati: It will be a dark Christmas for the villagers of Sunajuli near Biswanath Chariali this year as they are in no mood to usher in the Yuletide spirit. About 250 km from the capital, this village has a church which has been decorated by the villagers but there is no cheer.
Two years ago on December 23, a group of National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit) militants had stormed into their village and started shooting indiscriminately. About 42 villagers, including around 13 children from Sunajuli, its neighbouring Maitalubasti, Phulbari, Samukjuli and Batasipur villages, were gunned down by within minutes.
Tears well up in the villagers’ eyes at the memory of that fateful night. At least 76 people, belonging to both the adivasi and Bodo communities, were killed. Xavier Baske, a farmer from Maitalubasti, remembered how he had saved himself from the flying bullets. “I heard gunshots and hid behind the bushes. After three hours, when I crawled out of the bushes, I saw bodies lying around,” he said.
Two years have gone by, but nothing has changed. The villagers feel as insecure as they did in 2014. “We received tin roofs and a few thousand rupees. But the core demand for safety is yet to be addressed. Police patrolling continues to elude the villages,” said Phunbili, a mother of two.
The villagers alleged that Bodo militants are still moving around in the hills. Despite a crackdown on NDFB(S), the bordering villages on the hilly slopes of Arunachal Pradesh have been complaining of unidentified gunmen coming down and going back to the neighbouring state.
Raphael Kujur, former president of All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam, alleged, “We had demanded immediate action covering the entire stretch of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Union home minister Rajnath Singh had promised that no militant would be spared but even after two years, they are roaming freely.”
He asked the state government to stress on developing road links to these remote areas to ease police patrolling. The massacre on the night of December 23 is considered to be one of the biggest failures of the Assam Police because they had failed to react to intelligence reports of a possible carnage by Bodo militants.
“The mastermind, NDFB(S) army chief G Bidai, and deputy commander Baitha, are still at large. They have been managing to escape the police net. Isn’t that a failure?” the adivasi leader wanted to know.