The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Battlefield Dhemaji after blast
- Shocked by lax security, mob stones officials running for cover - 12-hr Assam bandh today

Dhemaji, Aug. 16: Anger flew thick and fast, turning the Dhemaji College playground into a battlefield, moments after 13 people were killed in an explosion triggered by Ulfa militants during an Independence Day function yesterday.

Shocked and seething over the ghastly sight of flesh strewn all around the place, the stone-pelting mob vented its anger on the government and police officials who scurried to save their own lives. A police vehicle was also set on fire.

Deputy commissioner Mukesh Sahu had to be administered first aid after being hit by a stone on the nose.

“They were busy looking after themselves. If the officials, who have been entrusted with the task of protecting the crowd assembled for a government function, cannot provide us with security, then they have no right to stay in office,” a protester said.

Security forces fired 400 rounds in the air to disperse the mob. Several personnel were injured in the stone-pelting.

The few shops which were open immediately downed shutters. Vehicles also went off the roads.

Assam minister of state for home Rockybul Hussain bore the brunt of the protests when he visited the site of the blast yesterday. A slogan-shouting crowd greeted Hussain as he was visiting the injured in Dhemaji civil hospital along with local AGP legislator Dilip Saikia Sonowal and senior police officials of the state.

A hapless home minister had to admit in public that there were serious lapses in the security arrangements for the function and also assured the people that appropriate action would be taken against those found guilty.

Later, he calmed frayed nerves by announcing that the state government had transferred deputy commissioner Mukesh Sahu and suspended superintendent of police of the district, T. Thengnieu, and the additional superintendent of police (headquarters) A. Sofian Ali, for dereliction of duty.

Sonowal was not spared either as his car was damaged by the mob.

The legislator said the Dhemaji district and police administration could have averted the tragedy. “After the early morning blast at Dhakuakhana, the officials present at the site requested senior district administration and police higher-ups to shift the site of the function from Dhemaji College field but they did listen.”

Dhemaji is one of the worst flood-affected districts in the state.

The 13 deaths have only added fuel to the people’s rising discontent and anger over the inept handling of the flood situation.

Six underground outfits of the Northeast, including the Ulfa, KLO and the NDFB, had called a “boycott” and “general strike” during Independence Day celebrations.

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