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Agitators resume NH 38 blockade

- Family of youth wants army to admit ‘killing’

Jorhat, Jan. 21: Protesters belonging to various student and social organisations today resumed the blockade of NH 38 in the Tingrai area under Digboi police station in Tinsukia district, demanding action against those responsible for yesterday’s killing of a youth, Lalit Moran, 20, inside Kakajan-Duarmora reserve forest.

The highway connects Makum with Lekhapani in Tinsukia district, covering a distance of about 53km.

The blockade site is about 20km from Tinsukia town.

Lalit was allegedly killed by an army team that was conducting counter-insurgency operations inside the forest. He had allegedly gone to the forest to collect firewood with three others, who managed to escape, seeing the armymen.

Family members claimed that Lalit was not an Ulfa militant. This was corroborated by local police and the district administration, leading to a furore with local residents, who blocked NH 38 yesterday. They withdrew the blockade, post-midnight.

However, from 11am today, hundreds of protesters, including women belonging to over 10 organisations, resumed the blockade demanding that an officer from the army unit that was carrying out the operation come to the spot where the blockade was staged.

The All Tai Ahom Students’ Union, All Assam Moran Students’ Union, Mottock Yuba Chatra Parishad, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad and All Assam Students Union were among the organisations involved in the blockade.

“We want an army officer to come here and publicly admit that an ‘innocent youth’ was killed by the army and assure us that action will be taken according to law against those responsible for Lalit’s death,” said All Tai Ahom Students’ Union president Pranjal Rajkumar.

Rajkumar said all the protesting organisations have been holding talks with officials of the district administration, with senior district administration and police officials camping at the spot. He said the family members of Lalit have filed an FIR with Digboi police station seeking a proper probe and action against those guilty of killing him.

The family members of the deceased have refused to accept the body, which was lying at the Tinsukia district government hospital, till their demand for “justice” was met. The Tinsukia district administration ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident last evening, asking Margherita subdivisional magistrate Palash Ranjan Gharphalia to conduct a probe into the incident and submit a report within a month.

Tinsukia deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram told The Telegraph over phone this evening that the district administration was monitoring the situation and persuading the agitators to withdraw the blockade. The DC said their demand for an army official coming to the site of protest has been intimated to the army authorities posted in the district.

Taking into account the sensitive nature of the situation, the administration has been trying to break the impasse. Sundaram said the district administration, after consulting Dispur, has announced Rs 3 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased. “We will also try to get more funds sanctioned from the Centre to be given to Lalit’s family,” the deputy commissioner said.

The Paresh Barua faction of the Ulfa, in a statement, has denied that Lalit was a member of the outfit. Condemning the killing, the outfit called all organisations and parties of the state to stage protests over the incident.