NE: Rail track blast, rebel rivalry mark I-Day
Suspected United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) militants blew up a railway track near western Assam's Goalpara town and two rival rebel groups fought it out in central Assam's Karbi Anglong district as the Northeast defied a 17-hour boycott call by 12 insurgent outfits to celebrate the 65th Independence Day.
A Northeast Frontier Railway spokesperson said miscreants damaged a 10m stretch of a broad gauge track near Goalpara early Monday morning. "A goods train carrying fuel was scheduled to cross that stretch minutes after the blast," he said.
The police suspect the Ulfa's anti-talks faction led by Paresh Barua to be behind the blast. The targeted area is close to the India-Bangladesh border as well as Garo Hills of Meghalaya that had often in the past been a safe passage for militants to and from the adjoining country.
Minutes after the train track blast, a fierce gun battle broke out in the hills of Karbi Anglong district after rebels of the Karbi People's Liberation Tigers (KPLT) attacked the designated camp of rival Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF). KPLT claimed to have killed several KLNLF militants in the gunfight that lasted at least two hours. Police are yet to verify the claim.
The KLNLF had declared ceasefire with New Delhi a few months ago but the KPLT is opposed to talks. Both though have the same agenda - statehood for Karbi Anglong dominated by the Karbi tribal people.
In Guwahati, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi aired a carrot-and-stick policy in his Independence Day speech. "We are keen to negotiate with any outfit if they shun violence and join the mainstream. But we'll not hesitate to carry out counter-insurgency operations if they resort to terror tactics," he said.
For militant outfits in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura, it is a ritual to boycott August 15 and January 26 and trigger terror on these days symbolic of the 'might' of 'colonial India'.