I am near the Indo-Bhutan border in a village called Dimakuchi in the Udalguri district of Assam in Northeast India. There are hundreds of people around me and we are in a large field where temporary tents are pitched. Lightning flashes in the sky as people huddle together under a slight drizzle. The faces of the crowd are all turned to one direction, captivated by the spectacle of dance, song and entertainment on the makeshift stage as though they are under a spell. As the compere monotonously calls for the next performer in line for the Master of Dance competition, I wonder if this is the Bodo Film Festival I was invited to, and how I am supposed to make sense of it.
On the train coming back to Guwahati I realised that the only certain fact was that 15 dead bodies, including that of the gunman, had been found in the marketplace that day. And yet, my writer’s mind couldn’t stop coming up with further scenarios. Had Islary still been undecided about carrying out an attack when he got down in the market? What if the AK he was carrying under his raincoat had been meant for protection only? Had he counted on the absence of a police outpost at Balajan Tiniali to keep him safe? Was he there to maybe collect money from someone? Or might he have wanted to give himself up? Had he been surprised by the security forces, or had there already been someone at the market waiting for him? One of the things I had kept hearing was the presence of two or three men dressed in black. Might have there been a crossfire? Or was there just a single gunman involved, as claimed by the police, looking to lessen the pressure on his group by a terror strike? And could that claim have then influenced the testimony of the eyewitnesses I had met?