IN the run-up to every Independence day in Assam, the violence graph invariably rises as militant groups call for a boycott and the government tries to counter it. This year was no different. On August 11, suspected ULFA militants exploded a bomb at the 13,000 kilolitre depot of the Indian Oil Corporation at Thekeraguri in Nagaon. The depot was destroyed, the loss running to crores. But what is worrying the state administration more is that after a four-year lull, a fratricidal clash has erupted between the ULFA and its former members.
It all began with the killing of Tapan Dutta, a former high-profile ULFA activist from upper Assam who had sur rendered in 1992. Dutta was gunned down in Guwahati. In less than two days, the SULFA (or surrendered ULFA members as they are called) struck, killing six family members of three top ULFA leaders.
Among the victims was Dimbeshwar Rajkhowa, elder brother of ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa. He was killed in the upper Assam, insurgency-hit town of Dibrugarh. But the most heartrending scenes were witnessed at village Nij-juluki in Nalbari district. Four members of ULFA publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, whose real name is Dipak Das, were gunned down. Among those killed were Dipak's brother Dharanidhar Das, a popular doctor in the locality, his pregnant wife Runjyoti, Dipak's mother Phuleshwari and his sister Latika. The only survivor was Dharanidhar's four-year-old son Bhaskar. Dipak's father, who was away at his daughter's house, was also saved.
The fratricidal clashes shook the state and even the ULFA was moved enough to call for a halt to this senseless bloodletting. "These killings are a part of a RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) conspiracy," the outfit said, and called for a "united stand against the heinous and inhuman plot of the Indian state." In a personal statement, Daimary said: "The personal loss that I have suffered will never be made up but this will not deter me from my goal." Even in the post-August 15 phase, there have been four such killings. There seems to be no end to Assam's summer of discontent.