Dibrugarh, Oct. 12: Anti-army sentiments in Assam burst forth again with several thousand people blocking NH 37 in Doomdooma today to protest the detention of 20 residents after suspected Ulfa militants triggered a blast in which a soldier suffered minor injuries.
The intensity of the protest revived memories of the mutiny in nearby Kakopathar, also in Tinsukia district, after the death of a youth named Ajit Mahanta in army custody earlier this year.
Two women from the tea labour community and as many schoolchildren were among the 20 people rounded up by the army after the blast targeting an army convoy yesterday. The commanding officer of the 6 Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry, Col A. Rajura, said the villagers were picked up because there were “strong indications” of their having links with the militants who triggered the blast.
Half of the detainees were released in the evening. The organisations behind the blockade said they would resume the road blockade if the rest were not freed by 12 pm tomorrow.
In neighbouring Dibrugarh district, a farmer who had been picked up by the army on Monday landed up in hospital with marks of torture.
Relatives of Nipul Saikia, a farmer from Khowang Kalowloa village under Khowang police station, said an eight-member army team from the Tiloi camp of the 11 Guards Regiment had taken him away for no apparent reason. “We were running from pillar to post to know his whereabouts. It was only today that we received news of him being handed over to the police and admitted to the Assam Medical College and Hospital. He told us that the army personnel subjected him to electric shock (on his private parts) and beat him up,” Purnima Saikia, a member of the family, said.
Nipul’s brother Sanjay was an Ulfa member and killed in an encounter with the army near Naharkatia in 1999. Nobody else in the family has since been associated with the banned militant group in any way, Purnima said.
The army claimed to have found a pistol and nine rounds of ammunition on Nipul.
A relative quoted Nipul as saying that he was admitted to a private nursing home in Dibrugarh but handed over to the police when his condition deteriorated. “The nursing home management refused to keep him on realising that he had been tortured,” the relative said.
A doctor at the casualty ward of Assam Medical College and Hospital described Nipul’s condition as “very serious”. “The patient has suffered severe internal injuries from electric shocks given to him. We are trying our best to save him,” the doctor said.
Col. Yashpal Singh, commanding officer of the 11 Guards Regiment, insisted that Nipul was an “Ulfa linkman”.