As part of its investigation into the killing of five Bengali-speaking farmers by unidentified gunmen last week, Assam Police have tracked down a Nepali-speaking father-son duo who came face-to-face with the gunmen minutes before the shooting.
A report published in the The Indian Express on Sunday stated that the duo stay around 10 km from Bisonimukh, a Bengali-dominated village where the shooting took place. According to police sources, the duo was questioned late on Saturday night for possible clues regarding the identity of the gunmen. For many in Bisonimukh, the discovery of the duo is significant because it indicates the gunmen targeted people from one linguistic community.
The report further stated that the 56-year-old dairy farmer and his son were returning on a motorcycle after arranging bamboos for their cowshed — referred to as “khunti” — on the banks of the Brahmaputra River which houses 30-odd cows and buffaloes. They met the suspected militants as they were lining up the six men — one of them survived — to shoot them dead.
“As our bike approached the small bridge over a stream, we saw a few men. Four of them were in military fatigues, had a bandana over their head and black cloth tied as mask on the face. I was not in a position to observe accurately, but I think I saw two of them holding a rifle each. Some other men were lined together,” the father said.
“We did not know what was happening. The gunmen shouted at us to turn off the motorcycle’s light. We did and got off our bike. One of them asked in Hindi, ‘kahan se aaya’ (from where have you come) and we replied, ‘khuti’. Then he asked, ‘kahan jana hai’ (where are you headed to) and we told the name of our village,” he added.
“Then the gunman said, ‘jaldi jao’ and we started briskly walking holding the bike. Minutes later there was a series of gunshots. We were frightened. We let the bike fall on the road and ran off to a house we could see,” he said.
Police later recovered at least 38 empty cartridges of AK-47 rifles from the spot. The house the duo ran into belongs to Amar Biswas, a farmer in his 50s. It is barely 100 metres from the spot where the shooting took place. “They introduced themselves from the other side of the door and said ‘please open the door’. We did not open initially, but soon we heard chaos outside as others were coming out from their homes hearing the shots. We opened the door a few minutes later,” said Biswas.
Biswas’s neighbours, Ananta Biswas (18) and his brother Abhinash Biswas (25), were among the five killed. Subal Namasudra, brother of another victim Dhananjay Namasudra (23), said the fact the two Nepali-speakers were let off is significant in establishing that the killing was an instance of “targeting Bengalis”. Namasudra said, “The two were let off moments after my brother and others were rounded up randomly from the village and minutes before they were shot dead. These two men could have also been rounded up — but were not. Why?”