GUWAHATI: Even as grand pageants rolled across the country to mark the Republic Day on Thursday, eight low-intensity blasts, triggered in quick succession by militants, rocked Assam and Manipur. Fortunately, no casualties were reported due to the explosions.
The blasts, however, could not dampen the spirit of the people, who came out in large numbers to celebrate the occasion. Earlier, insurgent groups of Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya had jointly appealed to the public to boycott the celebration.
In Assam, two blasts were reported from Charaideo district, two from Sivasagar district and one each from Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts, where insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) has a strong base. In Charaideo, one of the blasts was triggered near a petrol pump at Angera. Another blast was triggered at Lengeribor on the Nagaland border.
The two blasts in Sivasagar were triggered at Bihubor — one near a petrol pump and the other beside a road. The blast in Dibrugarh was triggered at Chowkidingi. It occurred during the R-Day celebration. In neighbouring Tinsukia, an explosion took place near the newly-constructed 9.15-km-long Dhola-Sadia bridge, which is the country’s longest.
The twin blasts in Manipur were reported from Imphal East district — one in Mantripukhri and another near Manipur College. Interestingly, ULFA’s self-styled “commander-in-chief” Paresh Baruah had purportedly called up media houses earlier to warn what was at hand.
Assam director-general of police Mukesh Sahay said the ULFA triggered the explosions to cause a scare.
“The six low-intensity blasts were triggered in totally-isolated places like paddy fields, ponds etc., to scare people so that they do not attend the functions but they were largely attended everywhere,” he said and added that parts of Assam’s border with Arunachal and Nagaland, where the insurgents operate from, were “problem areas”.
Condemning the incidents, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said people across the State stood united for peace. “We are united in the fight against terror. By turning up in large numbers across the State to participate in the Republic Day celebration, people have proved they cannot be cowed down through acts of terror,” he said.
“As the celebration of Republic Day is a stark reminder of colonisation of the region by India, we ought to dissociate ourselves from it… We, the fraternal organisations, have decided that the region should collectively boycott the Indian Republic Day,” the insurgent outfits had earlier said in a joint statement.