Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday claimed “inflammatory statements” by political leaders and a section of the news media and social media had led to the killings of five Bengali Hindus in Tinsukia district the day before, PTI reported.
On Thursday, unidentified gunmen suspected to be members of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) killed five people and injured one in the district’s Kherbari village. Earlier in the day, police personnel detained its leader Jiten Dutta in connection with the attack. The militant group, however, has denied its role in the attack.
Sonowal promised to take action against the perpetrators and called on citizens to maintain peace and harmony. “I hold responsible a section of political parties, organisations, news media, social media and people’s representatives for their inflammatory statements,” the chief minister told reporters. He did not identify any militant group as responsible for the attack.
Union Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh asked Sonowal to take strict action against those responsible for the murders. “Deeply anguished by civilian casualties in an attack in Upper Assam region,” Singh tweeted. “It is a reprehensible act of mindless violence.”
Meanwhile, the All Assam Bengali Youth Students Federation called a 12-hour shutdown in Tinsukia and other parts of the state during the day. The protest reportedly turned violent at a few places. The Silchar District Congress has called a 12-hour strike from 5 am to 5 pm in Cachar on Saturday, NorthEast Now reported. Several organisations have also announced their participation in a statewide shutdown, Time8 reported.
In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress staged protests in several parts of the state. Trinamool Congress MP and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee demanded a court-monitored investigation into the murders and called for Sonowal’s resignation, PTI reported.
Assam Water Resources Minister Keshav Mahanta and Minister of State for Power Topon Kumar Gogoi, who visited Kherbari on Friday, announced Rs-5 lakh compensation for the families of the five. The ministers said one member from each family would be given a government job, PTI reported.
Suspected ULFA(I) connection
A spokesperson for the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) told The Hindu, “The attack might have been [carried out] over resentment against the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s bid to derail the National Register of Citizens by pushing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016.”
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in July 2016, aims to make crucial changes to the Citizenship Act of 1955. If passed, it would make undocumented immigrants – Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Parsis – from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh eligible for citizenship. It would also ease the terms of naturalisation of individuals from these groups.
On October 23, protestors attempted to stop transport services and burnt tyres in several parts of the state after several groups called for a shutdown to protest against the proposed legislation.