STORY: Suspected Indian militants shot dead five Bengali-speaking Hindu men in a sensitive border state late on Thursday (November 02), as tension grows over a controversial citizenship test to identify illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
India’s northeastern state of Assam, home to 33 million people, has suffered years of violence as residents, including tribal groups, have clashed with suspected Hindu and Muslim settlers they accuse of plundering resources and grabbing jobs.
The state’s draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) released in July excluded 4 million mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims and Hindus.
On Friday, police said the five men killed were Indian citizens who had been shot one by one after being taken to a low-lying area by a road in Assam’s district of Tinsukia.
One young man, picked up by a group of men in army fatigues but presumably left for dead when he passed out at the start of the shooting, said he was lucky to be alive.
The situation was tense in Tinsukia because of a 12-hour shutdown called by local Bengali associations on Friday.
“The police station was close by, but even then the killings happened. This is a terrible failure on the part of the government,” said a protester.
The government has promised strong action against the perpetrators.
Protests erupted in neighbouring Kolkata city as well where Mamata Banerjee, a staunch Modi critic whose party rules India’s eastern state of West Bengal, said it would hold rallies all over the Bengali-majority state.
The United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent), which has in the past championed the separation of tea and oil-rich Assam from India and is now trying to make a comeback there, denied responsibility for the killings in a statement. No other group has claimed responsibility.