It is to the credit of various student and social organisations in BTAD area for unitedly trying to keep public order, with tension simmering over the dastardly killing of All BTC Minority Students Union (ABMSU) president Lafikul Islam Ahmed. Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal has sent the DGP to Kokrajhar and met with ABMSU, AAMSU and BPF representatives to defuse the tension and find a way forward. ABSU, AASU, AKRSU and other students organisations have sent delegations to the spot and demanded speedy investigations to net the guilty. But what this murder has brought into sharp focus is the fraught situation in BTAD, despite Hagrama Mohilary’s BPF keeping an apparently strong grip over its politics. On the ground though, arms trafficking, intimidation, extortion, abductions, killings and other crimes continue to be rampant. A popular student leader who succeeded in building bridges with groups representing various ethnicities, Lafikul Ahmed was known to speak out fearlessly on the insecurity dogging common people in the backdrop of lingering Bodo versus non-Bodo tensions. Judging from the professiol manner his killers went about their business — their use of sophisticated small arms to shoot at point blank range and make a swift getaway — it is being suspected that they may have been trained by militants, or worse, by security forces. Whether they had prior information about their quarry’s plans to buy tiles from a particular shop in Titaguri market, that the CCTV camera in the shop was non-functiol that day, that his bodyguard was on leave — these and other aspects are being probed, the police claim. If it was a political killing to trigger commul clashes on a day the Prime Minister was visiting the State, and so near Independence Day — then the roots of the conspiracy are bound to go into very murky waters.
Another aspect being probed is the suspected involvement of the cattle mafia, with a notorious cattle trader already being arrested and grilled in custody by the CID. A vocal opponent of the illegal cattle trade, Lafikul Ahmed on earlier occasions is believed to have supplied to the media damaging information about the modus operandi used by cattle smugglers, and more importantly, the payoffs they were allegedly making to the police. Cattle stolen from various parts of Assam is but a small part of this clandestine trade, with most of the cattle smuggled in from north India right up to Assam-Bengal border. Cattle mafia in BTAD areas are said to be active in bringing smuggled cattle through Srirampur checkgate and then transporting these animals along Dhubri-Mancachar-South Salmara corridor to Bangladesh over riverine sections of the border. With crores on rupees coming in through hawala operatives linked with the trade, sections of police administration and political leaders in lower Assam, BTAD and Guwahati are being kept happy with huge payoffs — ABMSU and AAMSU leaders have alleged in the aftermath of Lafikul Ahmed’s killing. With question marks thus being posed over the role of police administration, it is significant that Chief Minister Sonowal while constituting an SIT to conduct the probe and seeking a report from the DGP, has promised to write to the CBI to take over the case. But what comes across loud and clear is that illegal syndicates like cattle mafias are flourishing in BTAD, thanks to lax if not compromised law enforcement, and fortified with illegal firearms. Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Chirang and Baksa in BTAD remains flush with firearms freely smuggled in; these four districts have accounted for over one-third of illegal arms recovered in the State in the last 5 years. The conviction rate being dismal, the gun-runners continue to operate with impunity. Unless the BTC administration and State government move with a coordited plan to check gun-runners and root out illegal syndicates, BTAD will remain a powder keg prone to explode in disastrous fashion.