August 15, 2004: Independence Day bombing in Assam, India

On this day in 2004, at least 18 people were killed, mostly children, by a bomb planted by Assam separatists in NW India.

Lots of groups seek independence but does that mean it is ok to kill to get your way?

DHEMAJI, INDIA — It is certainly not uncommon for a group of people living in a political boundary of one kind or another to want to carve out their own homeland. Sometimes this happens when one part, often a foreign power occupies another land (think of the struggle for Ireland). At others it is when one party simply wants to run the show however it wants, kicking out those opposed to it (think the battle for Quebec independence).

Some of these campaigns are entirely peaceful in nature and the faction pining for independence gets its way in the end: this is essentially what happened here in Canada in the mid 1860s. Sure we had our minor skirmishes with the Brits, but they don’t call us the land of ‘peace, order and good government’ for nothing!

Then again, even here, there were violent incidents associated with separatist movements. The aforementioned Quebec struggle in the 1960s was very violent, with hundreds of bombs going off, six deaths, and the eventual imposition of martial law in October following the kidnapping of a British diplomat and a Quebec minister (the latter was killed). All very violent indeed!

Coming up with a comprehensive list of violent independence movements around the world and across time would be a large task indeed. However, there certainly have been acts of terrorism associated with such desires. Today’s featured attack is one such example.

On this day in 2004

On this day in 2004 a bomb exploded at an Independence Day march in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, killing at least 18 people and injuring many others. Police sources blamed the attack on one of Assam’s eight separatist groups: the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) had called for a boycott of Independence Day events.

There was total panic with people running all over the place crying for help, I could see scores of people profusely bleeding and lying on the ground.

Police said many of the victims of the blast on a college parade ground in the town of Dhemaji were schoolchildren or their mothers. Local people incensed at the failure to protect the parade later attacked police vehicles at the scene.

The last time I checked Assam is still very much part of India. In other words, the violent independence campaigns have not worked. Not that this will stop them alas. Even if most of the victims are children, the last ones who should be caught up in an separatist fight.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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