The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an armed separatist group active in the northeastern Indian state of Assam has been demanding a separate state for the Bodo people, an ethnic group that constitutes a significant minority in Assam for many years now. Over the years, the NDFB has carried out numerous attacks on civilians and security forces, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives.
The 2014 Balapara village attack, for which Rabi Basumatary has been sentenced to life imprisonment, was one of the deadliest attacks carried out by the NDFB. On December 23, 2014, a group of armed militants entered the village and opened fire on the residents, killing seven people and injuring many others. The attack was widely condemned by politicians and civil society groups, and the government launched a massive manhunt to track down the perpetrators.
Rabi Basumatary, who was arrested in January 2015, was identified as one of the key conspirators in the attack. During his trial, the prosecution presented evidence showing that Basumatary was part of the NDFB’s “Adivasi wing” and had planned and executed the attack on Balapara village. The court also noted that Basumatary had a long history of involvement in militant activities and had been arrested several times in the past.
Basumatary, who also goes by the name of Rongjabaja and Rabi, has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Special NIA Court in Guwahati for his involvement in the killing of seven people in an armed attack on Balapra village in Assam’s Kokrajhar district in 2014. He was also sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years for other offenses registered under the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
According to a statement by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Basumatary was convicted by the court on March 13, and fined in all the cases. He would have to undergo additional simple imprisonment in case of failure to pay the fine.
On May 1, 2014, Basumatary, along with six other members of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), penetrated Balapara village under the Gossaigaon police station’s jurisdiction in Kokrajhar district and indiscriminately fired on the locals on directions from the NDFB headed by G Bidai and Songbijit. In the incident, seven villagers were killed and two others were seriously injured.
Basumatary was arrested in September 2016 and charge sheeted by the NIA in March 2017 through its first supplementary chargesheet in the case. The first charge sheet was filed in Gossaigaon (Balapra) against accused Pradip Brahma in August 2015. The Special NIA Court had penalized and Brahma was subjected to life imprisonment in July 2016, the NIA representative said.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has welcomed the court’s verdict, saying that justice has been done to the victims and their families. He further added that the state government is committed to upholding the rule of law and ensuring the safety and security of the people of Assam. “Any act of terrorism or violence that endangers the state’s peace and serenity will not be tolerated by the administration,” Sonowal said.
Assam Minister of State for Home Affairs, Pallab Lochan Das, also praised the court’s verdict, saying that it would serve as a deterrent to other militants.
The Balapara village attack was one of the deadliest attacks carried out by the NDFB in recent years. The group, which is seeking an independent Bodo homeland in Assam, has been involved in a number of violent incidents in the state, including attacks on security forces and civilians.
In 2015, the NDFB declared a banned organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Since then, security forces have launched a major crackdown on the group, killing several of its top leaders and arresting many of its members.
The sentencing of Basumatary has also been welcomed by politicians across the political spectrum. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “It is a significant triumph for the rule of law that NDFB militant Rabi Basumatary was sentenced for the 2014 Balapara incident. It also sends a clear warning to anyone who wants to disturb the peace and harmony of our community.” Sarma also praised the NIA and the security forces for their “tireless efforts” in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The opposition Congress party also welcomed the sentencing of Basumatary. Party spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi said, “In the war against terrorism and militancy, the Congress party actively supports the federal government. An encouraging start in that regard is the sentence imposed on Rabi Basumatary.” Gogoi also called for greater efforts to address the root causes of militancy in the region, including poverty, unemployment, and discrimination.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), further believes that the sentencing of Basumatary was a “major blow” to the NDFB and would “send a strong message” to other militant groups. The NIA also thanked the Assam Police and the Indian Army for their support in the investigation.