At least 48 people have been killed by Bodo tribal fighters in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, police sources said.
Reports said members of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland opened indiscriminate fire at Saralpara village in Kokrajhar district, and in Santipur village of Sonitpur district, on Tuesday.
The attacks came after a joint team of Assam Police and the Indian army killed two Bodo fighters in the neighbouring Chiran district on Sunday. Some members of the Bodo community say their identity, culture and language are under threat of being overrun and the only way they can preserve it is through self-governance.
The outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland has been fighting for independence since 1998. Villagers who fled the carnage told police that the rebels came on foot, armed with assault rifles and wearing military uniforms. They forced open the doors of their thatched huts and opened fire. Police inspector general S. N. Singh told reporters in Guwahati, Assam’s capital city, that additional forces were being sent in to chase down the attackers.
He said villagers at risk would be evacuated to safer places. “There is a curfew imposed by the police in a number of districts in Assam state,” Al Jazeera’s Karishma Vyas reported from New Delhi. “Police believe that this attack was planned. The gunmen reportedly fired indiscriminately on these villages that are largely populated by people know as the Adivasis.” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a Twitter post that the killings of innocent people were an “act of cowardice”.
Assam is one of seven states in India’s remote northeast, a region bounded by China, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The Indian government has previously negotiated a peace deal with the Bodos to give them limited autonomy, but sporadic attacks continue.