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2 students die in ‘encounter’

- Cops claim deceased were NDFB militants, residents say they were innocent

Bongaigaon/Kokrajhar, Dec. 11: Two school students were allegedly killed in a fake encounter with security forces in the wee hours today, sparking tension in Chirang district of Assam.

Police, however, claimed that the two were members of the Songbijit faction of the NDFB and were killed in an encounter with a joint team of police and army at Raidangbari under Runikhata police station, around 239km from Guwahati.

The deceased were identified as Jeremiya Narzary, a Class X student, and Pranjit Narzary, a Class VI student.

A Class VII student, Nikodim Narzary, sustained serious injuries and has been sent to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.

All three have been taking exams in their respective schools since December 5. Today, Nikodim was supposed to appear for his social studies exam and Pranjit for Bodo language exam. Jeremiya had his general science pre-test tomorrow.

Showing the attendance register and answersheets of Pranjit and Nikodim, the headmaster of Salbari Middle English School, Bhaben Narzary, said, “It is unbelievable and I demand justice for these students”.

Chirang superintendent of police Ranjan Bhuyan, however, said both the deceased were members of the Songbijit faction and an AK-47 rifle, 15 rounds of ammunition and a hand grenade had been recovered from them. “Nikodim could be either innocent or a linkman of the outfit. He seems to have sustained injuries in the crossfire. As far as the two slain militants are concerned, we are absolutely sure that they are members of the Songbijit faction of the NDFB and are suspected to have been involved in extortion and abductions in that area.”

The people of the area said all the three youths were innocent and the two were killed in a “fake encounter”.

“The security forces bolted the doors of the houses near the encounter site from outside before opening fire,” Rebeka Narzary, a resident, said.

The residents gathered in front of Runikhata police station around 9 this morning. They set ablaze four bikes and three bicycles of the police and then tried to torch the police station. The police fired in the air and lobbed tear-gas shells to control the mob.

Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) Speaker Pani Ram Brahma reached Runikhata and pacified the people and visited the encounter site. “I demand a probe into the alleged encounter since innocent students were killed after branding them terrorists,” he said.

An official in the chief minister’s office said a magisterial inquiry had been ordered and its report sought within 15 days.

The Ranjan Daimary faction of the NDFB, in an emailed statement, said the three youths were innocent and “the army had planted its illegally possessed weapons on the deceased”.

The outfit claimed that a Class XII student from Khumarsali village, Biswajit Basumatary, had also been killed by the security forces in a “fake encounter” in the Bijni police station area on December 8.

The Songbijit faction alleged the involvement of the Gobinda Basumatary-led NDFB (Progressive). In a statement emailed to the media, the outfit’s spokesperson, B.R. Ferengga, said, “The operation of Raidangbari was led by a member of the NDFB (P). We have clear evidence of their participation in the operation with the Indian Army”. It warned the NDFB (P) not to get involved in “dirty games”.

All Bodo Students Union (Absu) president Pramod Boro alleged that both security forces and militants were trying to spread panic in the BTAD by killing students and innocent people. “So, from whom can the common people seek security?” he asked.

Boro demanded a judicial inquiry, adequate compensation for the victims and stern action against the security personnel involved.

He said the Absu would move the National Human Rights Commission seeking justice for the victims.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU) also condemned the incident.