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Assam-Meghalaya borders sealed after Garo rebels gun down 7 ahead of local polls

Ethnic tension brewing between Rabha, Garo and Khasi tribes

Agency Report | Guwahati | 4 November, 2013 | 06:00 PM

Indefinite night curfew was clamped along the Assam-Meghalaya border in Assam’s Goalpara district with the army and police patrolling Gendabari where seven persons were gunned down and 10 others seriously injured by suspected GNLA ultras.

Seven people were killed and nine others injured when suspected cadres of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) fired indiscriminately at some people in a village in Assam’s Goalpara district, police said on Monday.

The incident took place on Sunday night in a village called Gendabari, located on the Assam-Meghalaya border. According to police, all victims were engaged in gambling, organised on the occasion of Diwali.

“A group of eight armed men came in army fatigues and started firing indiscriminately. Six people died on the spot, and ten were injured,” police said, quoting a witness. Another injured succumbed to injuries on Monday morning, while being shifted to Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, police said.

“The suspected cadres of the Meghalaya-based GNLA might have attacked the common people there. The basic intention is to disturb the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council (RHAC) polls,” Assam Police IGP (Law and Order) S.N. Singh said.

There has been tension brewing in the area since last month, particularly due to proposed elections to the RHAC. While the Rabhas are happy that the Assam government announced the three-phased polls to the RHAC, to be held on Nov 13, Nov 16 and Nov 25, other communities living in the areas, including the Garos, the religious minority, and Khasis have been opposing the polls, seeking that the government first exclude non-Rabha dominated villages from the RHAC.

Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has instructed the Director General of Assam Police to launch a manhunt to nab suspected militants who indulged in the violence. He has also directed the Assam DGP Jayanto N. Choudhury to deal firmly with the suspected GNLA militants and leave no stone unturned to nab those behind the killings. He said those guilty should get exemplary punishment.

The Chief Minister also directed the police chief to beef up security by deploying the army to bring the situation under control. Gogoi asked his cabinet colleagues Himanta Biswa Sarma, Rockybul Hussain, Nilamani Sen Deka and Rajib Lochan Pegu to go to the site of the incident and make a first-hand assessment of the ground situation there.

The Assam chief minister had also taken up the matter with the Meghalaya government, seeking assistance from that state in nabbing GNLA militants, and ensuring that the group does not create more trouble during elections to the RHAC.

While there are about 779 villages under the RHAC, including areas under Goalpara district and southern part of Kamrup district, non-Rabha communities claim that the Rabhas are a minority in at least 382 villages and hence these villages should be excluded from the list of RHAC. (IANS)