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Tea tribe students protest kids’ death

Jorhat, Jan. 10: The Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA) today took out a rally from Kharjan under Digboi police station to Makum in Tinsukia district to protest yesterday’s grenade blast that killed three children and injured two others.

The protesters, including women and children, chanted slogans against Ulfa leader Paresh Barua, the Assam government and police and later blocked Makum Tiniali, the intersection of National Highways 37 and 38, for about two hours. Makum is about 8km from Tinsukia town, which is about 200km from here.

The police suspect the grenade was left behind by Ulfa militants (Paresh Barua faction) during a recent encounter with security forces. The father of one of the victims collected it, thinking it was a ball, and gave it to his daughter. She called her friends to show it and the grenade exploded as they played with it.

The Tinsukia administration today announced a magisterial inquiry into the incident. Deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram has asked executive magistrate P.J. Kakati to conduct the probe.

Sundaram told The Telegraph that the district administration, on behalf of the state government, had announced Rs 3 lakh each to the next of kin of the three deceased. A proposal will be sent to the Centre to sanction another Rs 3 lakh each to the next of kin of the three dead.

The district administration today released Rs 20,000 each to the family of the deceased to perform last rites and Rs 5,000 each to the two injured. The injured — a seven-year-old girl and a 25-year-old woman — who are undergoing treatment at the Assam Medical College and Hospital, Dibrugarh, are stated to be out of danger.

ATTSA president Prohlad Gowala told this correspondent that they started the rally from Kharjan, the site of the incident, to Makum, the nearest town, covering over 8km.

Condemning the “tragic incident”, Gowala said, “In the conflict between Ulfa and the government, innocent lives have been lost. Hence both are responsible.”

He said “our people are angry” and slogans like “Paresh Barua murdabad, Ulfa murdabad (death to Paresh Barua and Ulfa)” were spontaneous outbursts as the grenade was reported to have been left behind by Ulfa militants. He added that if the militants had left behind the grenade during the encounter, it was the responsibility of the government, especially the police and security forces, to recover it by conducting a thorough search in the area.

ATTSA demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each from the government to the next of kin of the dead and Rs 3 lakh each to the injured.

The Paresh Barua-led faction of Ulfa today denied its role in yesterday’s explosion.

The AASU today condemned last night’s blast which claimed the lives of three children.

The union said whoever had committed the crime must not be spared under any circumstances.