BHAAGO(SCRAM), they barked. Not without my father, cried 18-year-old Poonam, before the other terrified women began dragging her away. A few paces from the bus they were pulled out of, she turned hoping to see her father for the last time.
Stunned, Poonam glanced away and ran like hell along with 16 co-passengers – local men, non-local women and children – the assailants let go. “A barrage of gunshots followed; it was as if they were emptying their hatred. I kept hoping they would spare my father, and if not, kill him instantly without torturing,” she recalled.
Poonam’s hope wasn’t answered. The limbs, external organs and head of her father, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited employee Sakal Deep Rai, and the others were chopped or smashed. They were shot too, over and over again.
Poonam, her 25-year-old brother Dharmender and mother left Seijosa for their native village in Bihar’s Vaishali district after her father was cremated on the banks of river Pakke Wednesday (10 November) morning.
Seijosa is a small town in Arunachal Pradesh (East Kameng district) bordering Assam’s Sonitpur district. Dominated by the Nyishi community, it has a small community of non-local communities from north, central and eastern Indian states.
The rebels belonging to the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) – it fights for a sovereign Bodo (ethnic group) land cleansed of ‘outsiders’ – had apparently targeted the bus Poonam was traveling in to teach New Delhi a lesson.
The kin of three other slain passengers – teachers Ashok K Gupta (Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh) and Jitender K Mishra (Kushinagar, UP) and technician Narayan Chandra Jana (Orissa) – also departed for their native places post-cremation.
What was left behind was repugnance. And fear that other non-locals could meet a similar fate. “Inhuman is too mild a word for the way the rebels killed my colleague and the others. Maarna hai toh ek goli hi kaafi hai (One bullet is enough to kill). Why this barbarism?” said Rai’s colleague B.P. Singh, also from Vaishali district in Bihar. “All the bodies were dismembered and shot almost beyond recognition.”
Ramji’s killing affected the Assam Assembly too. “I grew up in that area and never had my hair cut by anyone other than Ramji,” said Asom Gana Parishad (regional political party) legislator Girin Barua.
(Abridged version of this story carried by Hindustan Times)