GUWAHATI/TEZPUR: The Indian Army on Thursday deployed military helicopters to hunt down NDFB(S) militants as the toll climbed to 78 in the carnage by Bodo militants and retaliatory attacks by adivasis in Assam.
A military official said helicopters were scouring the jungles of Assam to track down militants trying to flee to Bhutan and the neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, which has thickly-forested mountains.
Fresh incidents of violence occurred on Thursday morning in Gossaigaon area in Kokrajhar where several houses of Bodos were set ablaze by adivasis as the backlash to the Tuesday massacre continued for the second day despite indefinite curfew clamped in the entire district.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday visited Sonitpur, one of the three violence-hit districts in lower Assam while reviewing the situation in the aftermath of the bloodbath by Bodo militants and declared that strong action will be taken against NDFB(S) under the Centre’s “zero tolerance” policy for such “crafted terror”.
"We will take strong measures to deal with the outfit and will control it effectively," Rajnath Singh told reporters.
"The killings by NDFB(S) is not an ordinary act of violence by a militant outfit, but an act of crafted terror and we will deal with it accordingly," Singh said.
"The Centre has adopted a zero-tolerance policy against all acts of terror and the similar policy will be adopted in this case too," he said.
Asked about operations against the outfit, Rajnath Singh said, “Operations will definitely be launched against the outfit but cannot say when.”
"Government has taken it very seriously … We have decided to act firm against them," he said.
The home minister has also requested external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to seek help from Bhutan to tackle the banned militant group, a home ministry official said.
Singh spoke to Swaraj on Wednesday night and requested her for immediate consultation with the authorities in the Himalayan nation, the official said.
The Bodo militant outfit is believed to have set up a few bases in the dense forest along the India-Bhutan border. Officials said that whenever security forces carry out offensives against its cadres, they often sneak into the Bhutanese territory making it difficult to track them down.
In 2003-04, Bhutan had carried out a massive operation against Ulfa militants and completely wiped out their bases from that country.
According to the police spokesman, in the worst affected Sonitpur district, six more bodies were recovered this morning from Maitalu Basti under Zinzia police station bordering Arunachal Pradesh taking the toll in attacks by anti-talks Songbijit faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) to 43 in the district and overall toll to 71.
Three adivasis were killed in police firing during protests against the carnage on Tuesday.
In Kokrajhar, the other severely affected district, retaliatory violence by adivasis claimed the lives of four Bodos at Manikpur and Dimapur areas.