Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah, at a rally in Assam's Guwahati on March 15, 2021, claimed that there had been no major extremist or militant attacks in Assam in the past five years.
Since the meaning of a "major" militant attack, as derived from this statement, seems ambiguous, FactChecker went on to check Shah's claim against data published by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and South Asian Terrorism Portal. Result: It's false.
According to Annual Report 2019-20 published by MHA, Assam has seen 153 insurgency-related incidents between 2016 and 2019. These have resulted in the killings of 42 civilians, eight security force personnel and 72 extremists.
But compared to 2016, cases of insurgency-related incidents reduced by 77% in 2019, according to the ministry's report.
Moreover, data compiled by South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP), a database on all available information relating to terrorism, low intensity warfare and ethnic/communal/sectarian strife in South Asia, has a different number than the MHA but it's still not zero like Shah claimed. Since 2016, there have been 1,046 terrorism-related incidents in the state, showed the SATP data updated till March 19, 2021.
The numbers quoted by MHA and SATP are different since they follow different methodologies to compile the data. While MHA doesn't state its process in the annual reports, the SATP mentions that its data sets are sourced from "news reports and are provisional".
Here are a few of the examples of militant attacks that took place in Assam in the last five years.
One of the most recent instances of a militant attack would be the twin bomb blasts that damaged Muliwala Lower Primary School in Assam's Hailakandi district on February 3, 2021. The under-construction school building, drinking water reservoir and boys' toilet were all damaged in the blasts, but no casualties were reported.
The Republic Day last year also witnessed four bomb blasts in eastern Assam's Dibrugarh (3) and Charaideo (1) in a span of 10 minutes around the time the national flag was unfurled across the country. Later, ULFA (I) militants claimed responsibility for the attacks. Of the three blasts that took place in Dibrugarh district, one of them took off near a private hospital, the second near a market and the third near Duliajan police station. The fourth blast took place at Teokghat in neighbouring Charaideo district which is believed to have a strong presence of ULFA militants.
Few days before the 2017 Republic Day too the state was subjected to a militant attack. Suspected militants attacked an Assam Rifles vehicle escorting tourists, killing two personnel and injuring several others near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border on January 22, 2017. Militants lobbed several grenades targeting a vehicle at Jagun, 12th Mile Barabasti on NH-53 bordering Assam's Tinsukia district.
Another case was recorded on August 23, 2017, when four low intensity blasts rocked Tinsukia and Sivasagar in Assam.
While, according to MHA data, no casualties were recorded in the insurgency-related incidents in Assam, such blasts and attacks have been a constant remainder of a situation of inherent turmoil there for decades now.