NEW DELHI – At least 68 people have died in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, 65 of them in attacks on tribal regions attributed to Bodo rebels and three in police firing on protesters, regional media reported Wednesday.
The attacks began Tuesday when members of the separatist National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) indiscriminately fired on the local population in the Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts.
The police opened fire Wednesday during a demonstration in Dhekiajuli, in which hundreds of people, most of them tribals, were protesting against the attacks by the rebels the day before, according to the IANS news agency.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that 37 tribal people were killed in Sonitpur district, 25 in Kokrajhar and three in Chirang. There were 18 children and 21 women among the dead.
The Indian government declared a curfew in the regions where the attacks took place and announced the sending of troops after the killings, which are attributed to the NDFB’s Songbijit faction, which opposes peace talks with authorities.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights in a statement condemned the civilian deaths, calling them crimes against humanity, as the separatists indiscriminately fired on the people.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized the attacks on Twitter saying, “Killing of innocent people in Sonitpur & Kokrajhar is an act of cowardice. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased.”
Assam’s Director General of Police, Khagen Sharma, told the regional Indian Express newspaper that the NDFB insurgents attacked settlements of the Adivasi tribes in four places.
According to the source, the attack could be in response to the deaths of several NDFB members at the hands of security forces in recent weeks.
In May, 31 people died in ethnic clashes in Assam, in which authorities accused the Bodo rebels of indiscriminately firing on members of the Muslim community.
Original inhabitants of the area, the Bodos accuse the Muslims – who came from neighboring Bangladesh in the last decades – of occupying their lands and taking away their jobs.
Activists from both communities were involved in armed clashes in 2012, leading to the deaths of about 100 people, destruction of hundreds of villages and the exodus of thousands of people.