The year was 1996, Sibu Murmu had gone to the nearby town of Kokrajhar from his village Lungsung. He had some work in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Kokrajhar. He had to apply for the ration card. His family was big.
He had three children, two sons and a daughter. The sons were Jitu and Raju, aged ten and eight respectively. His daughter Malati was five and the apple of his eyes.
His aged parents also lived with him. It took Sibu a good two hours to finish his work that day. But he would have to come again next week.
He decided to drink tea in a shop near the deputy commissioner's office before heading back home. He met a couple of acquaintances and was just sipping his tea when there was a commotion near the tea stall. Sibu looked up and saw a couple of o f men shouting. The extremist organisation had attacked a village and several people were killed. With the cup of tea in his hands, Sibu went closer to the group of men who were talking.
Apparently, the attack took place in the afternoon and several of the villagers had been killed.
" Which village brother?", asked Sibu to one of the men. "An Adivasi village", replied the man. " Lungsung".
Sibu stood still, shocked for a moment. Then his heart started hammering loudly, the blood rushing to his head. He felt giddy for a second. What's wrong brother?", asked the man.
" It's my village", replied Sibu with a whisper.
Then he took a grip on himself. He had to rush to his village and find out what had happened. He threw his cup of tea and started for the village.
When he reached his village, he saw the place swarming with army and police. There were wailing and cries of distress. He made his way towards his house, anxiety writ large on his face. The sight that met his eyes confirmed his worst fears. The militants had killed his parents. He saw his wife Gita wailing loudly and his two sons sitting hunched beside her in shock.
"Gita", called out Sibu, reaching out to his wife.
Gita looked at him with blank eyes at first. Then comprehension dawned on her.
She started blabbering. A group of militants entered the village and started shooting at the villagers indiscriminately after lining them up. Around twenty villagers were killed. Sibu's parents who were inside the house were dragged outside and killed. Even young children were not spared. The youngest was a two-year-old. They had killed her ruthlessly.
Gita was working in the paddy fields. The fields were situated at the outskirts of the village. Their fields were further always near the hills and were therefore saved. They heard the gunshots from the fields and hurried home to find the villagers killed.
" Malati? ", questioned Sibu, his heart turning cold.
" I left her with your parents", replied Gita. " But now I cannot find her', she ended desperately. Sibu's heart missed a beat. He started sweating.
" Let me go and check the bodies", he said quietly.
Sibu went and started checking. His neighbours, friends, many had been killed. But there were only three children among the dead.
The author Indrani Baruah, IPS is currently posted as Commandant, 4th Assam Police Battalion, Kahilipara.