More than 2,000 people have fled their homes in the restive Indian state of Assam after separatist rebels killed dozens of villagers, some of them children, an official said Thursday.
The residents sought shelter in makeshift camps set up by the state government following a series of coordinated attacks by armed rebels Tuesday that left at least 69 people dead, 18 of them children.
Another three people were killed on Wednesday when police shot at villagers who went to a police station to demand justice over the attacks.
“More than 2,000 villagers have sought shelter in relief camps. People are of course scared and worried about violence flaring up again,” a state welfare official said on condition of anonymity.
The tea-growing state of Assam in northeast India has seen violent land disputes in the past between the indigenous Bodo people, Muslim settlers, and rival tribes in the area.
Police blamed Tuesday’s attacks on the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), which has waged a violent decades-long campaign for an independent homeland for the Bodo.
Rights groups have in the past accused India’s government of not doing enough to tackle violence in the country’s remote northeast, which is home to many marginalised communities.
However, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said authorities would be “tough” on those behind the latest killings, which he called “an act of terror”.
“We have a zero tolerance policy against terrorism. And we have decided that those who carry out such massacres will face the same tough treatment that terrorists do,” he told reporters in Guwahati, the largest city in the state.