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Protesters lift NH 38 blockade at Digboi

Jorhat, Jan. 22: Protesters who blocked NH 38 yesterday, demanding action against those responsible for the killing of 20-year-old youth Lalit Moran, called off their siege at midnight last night.

An army team that was conducting counter-insurgency operations inside Kakajan-Duarmora reserve forest on Sunday allegedly killed Lalit. He had allegedly gone to the forest to collect firewood with three others, who fled on seeing the armymen.

After this incident, protesters affiliated to various student and social organisations blocked NH 38 at the Tingrai area under Digboi police station in Tinsukia district. The highway connects Makum with Lekhapani in Tinsukia district, covering a distance of about 53km.

Family members claimed Lalit was not an Ulfa militant as alleged by the army. This was corroborated by local police and the district administration, leading to a furore with local residents blocking the highway..

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.

All Tai Ahom Students’ Union president Pranjal Rajkumar told this correspondent that the student organisations have decided to “temporarily suspend” the agitation following assurances by the Tinsukia district administration of taking up their demands with the government.

He said that if their demands were not met within 20 days then the organisations would again resort to an agitation.

Rajkumar said a memorandum, on behalf of the protesting organisations, has been handed over to the district administration through additional deputy commissioner Hemanta Kumar Das late last night.

The major demands of protesters include ordering a judicial inquiry into the killing of the youth, compensation of Rs 20 lakh to the family of the deceased, providing a job to the next of kin of the deceased and assurance to take Assam police personnel into confidence while conducting army operations. They have also sought action against those armymen responsible for Lalit’s death.

Tinsukia deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram told The Telegraph today that he had received the memorandum, which would be forwarded to the chief minister’s office.

Sundaram said he would meet a delegation of the protesting organisations tomorrow to discuss their demands and steps to be taken to prevent recurrence of such an incident.

The Tinsukia district administration has already ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident asking Margherita subdivisional magistrate Palash Ranjan Gharphalia to conduct a probe into the killing and submit a report within a month.

Yesterday, the administration had announced Rs 3 lakh compensation for the next of kin of the deceased.