“We did not vote for the BPF (Bodoland People's Front) candidate in Lok Sabha polls, that's why we were attacked," alleged 75-year-old Iman Ali.
Bodoland People's Front, an ally of ruling Congress in Assam, is facing accusations for the Friday bloodbath that left 36 people -- mostly women and children -- dead with the affected families claiming that the "planned" attack was a reprisal for voting for a non-Bodo candidate.
The victims of Narayanguri in Baksa district, along with the villagers on East of Beki river, refuted government's claim that the attack was carried out by National Democratic Front of Bodoland's IK Songbijit faction -- NDFB(S) -- militants.
The BPF, which evolved from the Bodo Liberation Tigers militant outfit, has denied the allegations of involvement in the May 2 carnage that targeted Muslim families.
"The killings took place days after BPF leader Promila Rani Brahma said that Muslims did not vote for BPF. It seems like a planned attack," claimed Faridul Islam, who is living in a relief camp after the violence.
“It is our democratic right to support anyone we wish. Bodos have always tortured us. Almost every year, they do such kinds of massacre. Why should we vote them?" asked Iman Ali, who lost his wife in the attack.
The Bodo Liberation Tigers militant group had signed a peace accord during the NDA rule and it was later disbanded. The outfit took the form of BPF, which has been in power in the Bodoland Territorial Council.
During Lok Sabha elections, which took place in three phases last month in Assam, BPF fielded state Transport Minister Chandan Brahma from Kokrajhar constituency. Former ULFA militant Hira Saraniya, who was supported by a joint platform of non-Bodos, gave a tough fight to Brahma.
Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Mohilary has rejected allegations about BPF's involvement in the carnage.
A senior official said 72 families of Bengali speaking Muslim families were staying on West of Beki river, which is adjacent to Manas National Park.
On May 2, armed terrorists indiscriminately fired on villagers around 4 pm in the afternoon, when most of males went to the Bhangarpar market on the other side of the river.
Except two or three, every family has been affected and have been forced to take shelter in relief camps set up in the dry river-bed.
“The gunmen were mostly surrendered BLT militants, who have formed BPF now. The forest guards also fired at us when we ran towards their check post for protection,” claimed Johur Ali.
He said that many of the ex-BLT cadres were inducted as forest guards under a government scheme to stop poaching.
Islam claimed that they have come to know that Ranger Amiyo Kumar Brahma and a forest guard Rajen Boro have been arrested for this attack.
According to district administration officials, 7 forest personnel were picked up for interrogation in Baksa. The Ranger was freed later and is facing a departmental enquiry now.
The family members of the victims and the villagers of Bhangarpar are now demanding immediate arrest of Mohilary, Chandan Brahma and Promila Rani Brahma.
The district administration, however, declined to comment on the allegations of the affected families.
“We cannot comment on these allegations. The official version has already been made public," a senior official said.
The official said at least 26 persons were killed in Baksa. “Still 15 persons are missing. Out of them, 12 are children and 3 women,” he added.
Militants also simultaneously killed people belonging to the minority community in Kokrajhar. In total, 36 people have been killed in the two districts so far. Among them were 19 women and 10 minors.
The Bodos are the biggest tribal group in Assam. They are traditionally followers of Bathou religion and less than one-fifth of them are Christians.
The Bodoland Territorial Area Districts comprises districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri and has the lone Parliamentary seat of Kokrajhar. The Bodos constitute 30 per cent of the 31,00,000 people inhabiting in BTAD.
In Baksa relief camp, 498 people have taken shelter in plastic tents set up for them.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday said his government would institute a judicial enquiry by a retired judge to probe into the outbreak of violence.
“The government which has already moved the National Investigation Agency to probe into the incidents would leave no stone unturned to unearth the truth behind the incidents,” Gogoi said.
Image: A violence-hit woman cries with her son at a relief camp in Narayanguri village in Assam’s Baksa district
Photograph: Utpal Baruah/Reuters