The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Five hurt in firing, army stands by
- Tinsukia protesters turn Gogoi back

Dibrugarh, Nov. 25: Five persons were injured in police firing in the Lekhapani police station area of Margherita subdivision in Assamís Tinsukia district today. Two police officers also sustained serious injuries.

A clash occurred between police and local residents who were protesting against Dispurís decision to declare the Tirap Autonomous Council at Lekhapani.

Tension had been simmering in the area dominated by non-tribals for the past 25 days over the governmentís decision to float a tribal council. The protests against Dispurís move exploded today.

The district administration imposed curfew in areas under Lekhapani police station this evening and called in reinforcements. Sources said the army, which is stationed there, may be called out.

The five persons who sustained bullet injuries were identified as Bithu Rai, Thanuram Sarma, Kamal Chetri, Bhaity Kurmi and Shyam Bahadur Chetri. Bithu Rai has been rushed to the Assam Medical College Hospital here in a critical condition. The others were admitted to Margherita hospital.

Several officials, including the officer-in-charge of Lekhapani police station and an additional deputy commissioner, were injured while trying to quell the protests.

Central Reserve Police Force and police personnel initially burst teargas shells, resorted to a lathicharge and fired in the air, sources said. But when these efforts failed to disperse the mob, shoot-at-sight orders were issued.

The vehicle of Lekhapani subdivisional officer (civil) Jogesh Baruah was torched by protesters at Udaypur Chariali. The mob had gheraoed Lekhapani police station. The -Cís vehicle and another government car were also damaged.

ďPolice used minimum force to clear blockades and disperse gatherings. Protesters pelted stones on them. A few people were arrested but later released. The situation is now fully under control,Ē stated Tinsukia superintendent of police Debojit Hazarika.

Thousands of protesters staged blockades in Tirap, Lekhapani and Jagun areas of the subdivision to oppose chief minister Tarun Gogoiís scheduled visit to the area. Around 10,000 protesters blocked national highways and roads leading to the venue.

Gogoi was travelling there to participate in a function organised by the Tirap Autonomous Council Demand Committee, led by tribal leader Aimon Saikhap. Gogoi was expected to make a formal announcement there on inaugurating the council.

Gogoiís visit was cancelled owing to the tension prevailing in the area. The SP, however, claimed that Gogoi returned since the helicopter carrying him could not land at Lekhapani because of inclement weather.

Industry minister and Margherita MLA Pradyut Bordoloi was also sent back by protesters.

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