GUWAHATI: In apparent fallout of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, suspected militants of the Paresh Baruah faction of United Liberation Front of Assam, better known as ULFA-Independent, gunned down five Bengalis in Assam on Thursday evening.
The incident occurred near the Dhola-Sadiya bridge in Upper Assam's Sadiya police district bordering Arunachal Pradesh. Sources said the militants, who came brandishing sophisticated weapons and wearing battle fatigues, swooped down on the Kherbari Bisonibari area near the Brahmaputra and fired indiscriminately on a group of people playing ludo.
Three of them were killed on the spot. Two others succumbed to their injuries on the way to the hospital. The attack did not come as a surprise to many given the ongoing fraying of tempers by various Assamese organisations and also the ULFA-Independent against the Citizenship Bill which seeks to grant citizenship to the non-Muslim immigrants of Bangladesh besides Pakistan and Afghanistan who migrated to India till December 31, 2014.
Ahead of Durga Puja last month, militants of the ULFA-Independent faction had triggered a blast in the heart of Guwahati leaving four people injured. Soon after the explosion, Paresh Baruah had called up local news channels owning responsibility for the attack.
He said it was carried out as a mark of protest against the Citizenship Bill. Some 60 organisations in Assam had recently come together in calling a statewide bandh against the bill.
They fear that if the bill is passed, it will threaten the existence of the locals and their land, language, culture etc. They pointed out that the ongoing updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would be meaningless if the bill is passed as that would legitimize the stay of the immigrants, who migrated till December 31, 2014, in the country.
The NRC is being updated with March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date. This means the immigrants, irrespective of faith, who migrated after the NRC cut-off date, are to be detected and deported.
The organisations have been very critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and the BJP for the attempt to "dump" lakhs of "Hindu Bangladeshis" (read Bengali Hindus) in Assam through the bill's passage. Speculations are rife that the bill will be passed in the Winter Session of the Parliament.
The BJP strongly advocates the asylum, if not citizenship, of the non-Muslim immigrants. The party argues that the non-Muslim immigrants were the victims of Partition who fled to India in the face of religious persecution.