|Activists of AASU and Oboro Suraksha Samiti protest in Mushalpur on Thursday
|Security personnel keep vigil in the area. Pictures by UB Photos
Kokrajhar, July 24: Villagers demonstrated in Baksa district of Assam today, defying an indefinite curfew, to protest against the killing of a student leader yesterday as police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the mob.
Monoj Das, 35, former general secretary of the Baksa district unit of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), was shot dead by motorcycle-borne gunmen at Mushalpur Chawk under Mushalpur police station in Baksa under Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) around 7.30pm. Das was also an executive member of Asom Sena, a member of Sanmilito Jonogosthiyo Oikyo Moncho and was associated with Oboro Suraksha Samiti.
The police said Das was coming from his house at Belguri Pwthar, a distance of 3km, on a bike when gunmen shot at him near a bridge at Mushalpur Chawk. He was taken to Nalbari hospital where he was declared brought dead. The assailants managed to escape in the darkness, as there was no electricity at that time.
Indefinite curfew was clamped in Baksa district last evening after the murder. It has affected normal life in parts of the district.
Defying the curfew, a large number of villagers gathered at Mushalpur town today to protest the killing and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits. To prevent the situation from getting out of control, the police caned the protesters and fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells to disperse the mob.
The protesters also wanted to bring Das’s body to AASU’s Mushalpur office but the police did not permit it because of the volatile situation.
Baksa superintendent of police Majibur Rahman said five persons have been picked up for interrogation. He assured the people that the culprits would be arrested.
Assam home commissioner G.D. Tripathi said additional security forces were being deployed in Baksa.
Hours after the incident, unidentified men set on fire a BPF guesthouse under Mushalpur police station, damaging it partially.
The district administration has appealed to the people to maintain peace.
The Sanmilito Jonogosthiyo Oikyo Moncho, a conglomeration of 21 non-Bodo organisations formed to protect the rights of non-Bodo people living in the BTAD, condemned Das’s killing and held the government responsible for the incident. “The state government has failed to control violence in the BTAD despite repeated pleas by the people and organisations. Unless the government seizes illegal arms from the BTAD, violence will continue and spin beyond control,” Moncho president Hiteswar Barman said.
All BTAD Minority Students Union vice-president Mazid Ali Ahmed suspected the involvement of former Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) cadres as Das had received threats to his life over phone before the Lok Sabha elections. Ahmed criticised the state government for its indifference to the violence in the BTAD. Condemning the killing, All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) president Promod Boro demanded immediate arrest of the culprits and seizure of all illegal arms.
The Bodo Sahitya Sabha also condemned the killing. “This killing is an exercise to spread unrest and create an atmosphere of mistrust among different sections of people. The culprits must be dealt with strongly according to the law,” said Kamalakanta Muchahary, general secretary of the Sabha.
Das’s murder comes a few days after four lemon traders from Bogiribari in Barpeta district were kidnapped and killed by suspected militants of the Songbijit faction of the NDFB at Labdanguri in Baksa district on July 11.
People blamed the increase in crime by militants and miscreants in the BTAD to lack of adequate security.