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Protests follow border killings

- Assam cm announces rs 5 lakh compensation for victims’ kin
The bodies of the victims at Behali in Sonitpur district. Picture by UB Photos

Tezpur, Jan. 30: A day after 10 people were gunned down by a mob from Arunachal Pradesh at Chauldhua in Sonitpur district near the inter-state border, residents of Behali and Borgang in the district blocked National Highway 15 to protest the killings.

Several others injured in the firing at Chauldhua last evening under Borgang police station, about 135km from here.

The protesters demanded that the state government provide adequate security for people and their property and threatened to impose an economic blockade on the highway, which passes through Arunachal and Assam. The All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union also blocked National Highway 52 at Jonai in Lakhimpur district and protested at Borgang.

The simmering tension has prompted people to move to safer areas.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who was here to inaugurate Tezpur Medical College and Hospital, said the government would pay compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the victims and bear the entire expenditure for treatment of the injured persons.

He instructed planning minister Tanka Bahadur Rai and border minister Siddique Ahmed to take stock of the situation in Behali. “A border outpost will be set up in the border area immediately and security forces will patrol the area along with policemen. I have discussed the move with my Arunachal counterpart Nabam Tuki,” Gogoi said.

A high-level security meeting was held on the college campus in Tumuki after Gogoi’s arrival. “The number of police personnel involved in counter-insurgency operations along the border will be increased and they will be equipped with sophisticated weapons,” the chief minister said.

Arunachal Pradesh governor Lt Gen. (retd) Nirbhay Sharma today appealed to the people of both states to maintain peace and advised them to remain calm and not fall prey to any provocation or rumour.

In an email, the governor expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for the eternal peace of the victims and speedy recovery of the injured. Sharma said he was disturbed and saddened by the incident in Tarasso area on the border and asked all to join in condemning the act of violence. He said the untoward incident has vitiated the peaceful environment and spread fear among citizens of both states.

A BJP team, led by MP Bijoya Chakraborty, reached Bihali to take stock of the situation today. Condemning the incident, Chakraborty said the Assam government has failed to protect the lives of the people. “The government has not been able to settle the inter-state border dispute with Arunachal Pradesh though both states are ruled by the Congress,” she said.

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti president, Akhil Gogoi, who was among the protesters, said his group was behind the people of Behali, who have struggled to protect their lands in the absence of any government help. “The chief minister should step down for his failure to protect the lives and lands of people,” KMSS president said.

Behali reserve forest under East Sonitpur forest division has witnessed a border dispute in the past several years.