GUWAHATI (AFP) – Suspected separatist gunmen on Thursday shot dead five people they singled out in an Indian village where ethnic tensions are simmering over a new law on migrants, officials said.
Authorities said they suspected a faction of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) of carrying out the killings in Assam state, as well as a bomb attack in state capital Guwahati last month.
ULFA militants, who want a breakaway Assam nation, have threatened attacks over a new law that would grant citizenship to Hindus who have moved to the state from neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
Gunmen in military fatigues entered the village in Tinsukia district and ordered ethnic Bengalis out of their home, officials said.
Four people were killed on the spot and a fifth died in hospital, they added.
Radical ULFA chief Paresh Baruah had recently threatened Bengalis who wanted to stage a rally in support of an amended citizenship law going through the Indian parliament.
The bill aims to give citizenship to persecuted Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian and other minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in India before 2015.
Assam groups have accused the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of seeking to use the law to naturalise thousands of Hindus from Bangladesh now in Assam to boost votes for the BJP in the northeastern state.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said “strong action” would be taken against the killers but also appealed for calm.
India this year published a provisional list of people in Assam eligible for citizenship in a bid to identify illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
But the names of nearly four million people of the 32 million in Assam who submitted documents, many of them Bengali Muslims, were left off the so-called National Register of Citizens.
The claimants had to prove they came to the state by March 24, 1971, a day before Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan.
Experts have said it will take several years to produce a final version of the list.
But many Bengali Muslims still fear they will be deported while rights groups have said there could be attacks on Assam s ethnic minorities.
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