Family members with the body of the victim in Mariani on Monday. Picture by UB Photos
Jorhat, Aug. 19: A Class IX student was killed and five persons were injured in clashes and police firing in Jorhat district late last night, triggering protests by the tea tribes community today.
The All Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA) has called a 12-hour Jorhat district strike from 5am tomorrow to protest the killing of Sudip Nayak, 14.
The injured include college student Rajib Nayak, 17, two policemen, Deberapara police outpost in-charge Nidanul Islam and a constable of the 1st Assam Police Battalion Tileshwar Gogoi, and the two youths — Dipak Hazarika, 22, and Biju Tanti — who were rescued by police. All of them are undergoing treatment at Jorhat Medical College and Hospital.
JMCH deputy superintendent Dr Purnima Baruah said all the injured were out of danger but Rajib, who received a bullet injury in the abdomen, needed surgery.
Trouble began when a garden labourer, Mantu Nayak, a resident of Hemlai division of Boisahabi tea estate under Mariani police station, who was returning home from his relative’s house in a nearby tea estate on a bicycle, raised an alarm claiming that he had been attacked by a pisal bhoot (slippery ghost).
Workers of the garden then came out on Dhodar Ali to search for the ghost and stopped Hazarika and Tanti, both taxi drivers who were returning in a Maruti van from Tuli in Nagaland after dropping passengers, around 10pm, suspecting them to be ghosts.
Hazarika and Tanti, both residents of nearby Nagajanka and Hatiguri areas, said they were stopped by people armed with rods, machetes, spears, bows and arrows, taken to workers’ club inside the garden and beaten up on suspicion of being ghosts.
A police patrol team passing by heard their cries and tried to rescue them but the crowd refused to hand them over, the duo said, adding, “We would have been killed by the mob had the police not rescued us.”
Islam brought the youths to the vehicle but as he tried to move away from the spot, the mob attacked him with punches and blows and he fell to the ground.
“As constable Gogoi tried to pick me up, he was attacked on the head with a machete by someone from the group. The policemen then fired, but I did not order it,” Islam said from his hospital bed. “An officer (inspector) senior to me from the 1st Assam Police Battalion, who was part of the team, ordered the firing after Gogoi (from the same unit) was attacked,” he added.
The students, residents, who had come out to see what was happening, were hit in the police firing, some of the protesters said.
The protesters, supported by several organisations like the ATTSA and AASU, today blocked Dhodar Ali by keeping Sudip’s body on the road. They demanded that the police personnel who fired at the group be arrested.
They refused to hand over the body for post-mortem and brought it to nearby Deberapara police outpost this afternoon. In the evening, police resorted to mild caning and took away the body for post-mortem. About five protesters received minor injuries.
The protesters, including Mariani MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi of the Congress, alleged that the police had fired without any provocation when the workers were questioning the two youths.
Jorhat superintendent of police Sanjukta Parasor told this correspondent that the police had to resort to mild lathicharge to bring the situation under control as the protesters were refusing to hand over the body and had shown disrespect to the victim by throwing the body towards the policemen.
The police department has placed Islam under suspension.
The district administration has announced a magisterial inquiry into the incident to be conducted by additional deputy commissioner Dhiren Hazarika. The report is to be submitted within the next two days.
Jorhat deputy commissioner Solanki Vishal Vasant, who visited the site and held discussions with the protesters, told The Telegraph that the “unfortunate" situation was considerably defused by evening.
He said the family members of the victim filed an FIR today and a case had been registered. He said strict action would be taken if the firing was found to be unnecessary to control the situation. He said Islam would be kept in police custody during the inquiry period.
He said the government has announced Rs 3 lakh to the next of kin of the victim and the district administration had released Rs 25,000 for Nayak’s last rites.
Expressing concern over the incident, the chief minister also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of the victim and Rs 50,000 to the injured along with free medical treatment. Sources in Guwahati said the total compensation would be of Rs 5 lakh, including the amount announced by the deputy commissioner.
Assam parliamentary secretary for home affairs Etwa Munda also visited the site late this evening, under instructions from Gogoi.
AASU activists strung up the effigy of the chief minister here to protest against the incident.