World Bulletin/News Desk
Police in northeast India fired on Wednesday on demonstrators protesting against the killings of dozens of people by tribal guerrillas, killing five of them.
Militants fighting for a separate homeland for indigenous Bodo tribesmen went on a killing spree in Assam state on Tuesday, killing 51 people in four attacks in the space of an hour, the deadliest violence in months.
Hundreds of plantation workers armed with spears and bows and arrows defied a curfew imposed in response to the rebel attacks and surrounded police stations in Sonitpur district, the area worst hit by the militant violence, saying authorities had failed to protect them.
Some protesters set fire to shops and others blocked a railway line and roads. Police said they had to disperse the crowds.
"They were trying to storm police stations, we had to open fire as a result," a police officer from the area said by telephone.
According to local media reports, police resorted to firing after the protesters, from the Adivasi ethnic group, clashed with law-enforcement agencies. There have also been reports that the protesters have killed two from Assam's Bodo ethnic group in retaliation.
Assam is one of seven states in India's northeast, a region bounded by China, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh. For long, residents have accused the federal government of plundering its resources and ignoring its development.
The Bodo group had last struck in May, killing dozens of Muslims and prompting a heavier police presence in Muslim neighbourhoods. But on Tuesday they struck at settlers more broadly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to accelerate the development of roads and railways but one of his ministers said the violence had to stop first.
"There can no development until there is peace," junior interior minister Kiren Rijiju told reporters, vowing to crush the militants.
The Tuesday attacks on plantation workers were blamed on a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland in retaliation for an offensive against them launched by security forces a month ago.
Villagers told police the rebels came on foot, armed with assault rifles and wearing military uniforms.
"The militants first came and asked for water. Suddenly they opened fire with their AK-47 rifles," a witness, who fled into jungle, later told reporters.
Among the victims were 10 women and 13 children.
“Government will not surrender. Both state and federal government will act firmly together,” Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said in a press conference on Wednesday.
“Priority is to restore peace in the area,” Gogoi said, adding that additional forces have been deployed to prevent escalation.
India's federal government has rushed 5,000 paramilitary forces to the affected districts of Kokrajhar and Sonitpur.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday sanctioned compensation of $3250 each to the next of kin of the deceased and $813 to seriously injured persons from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
Federal home minister Rajnath Singh will visit the affected areas of Assam later on Wednesday afternoon.
Last Mod: 24 Aralık 2014, 12:00