The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army mum on soldier deaths

Ujjani Tiphuk (Sivasagar), Jan. 7: Maintaining a studied silence on the death of two military intelligence personnel ' a major and a sepoy ' in a botched operation by Assam police yesterday, the army today quietly sent the body of the slain officer to his hometown in Bihar and forced the family of the sepoy to conduct his funeral in a hurry.

Sepoy Bikash Sensowa, 22, was buried barely an hour after being taken to his residence at Ujjani Tiphuk. The army team that accompanied the body to the village offered no explanation to Sensowa's family about how he died.

The police gunned down Sensowa and Major Mukesh Chaurasia at Na-Khongia village of Dibrugarh district after mistaking them for militants. The duo was shot dead around 10 am and the police almost immediately announced that two Ulfa militants had been killed in an encounter.

The police realised the goof-up only after finding Major Chaurasia's identity card. Both armymen were in civvies.

Col Vivek Jalla, the commanding officer of the 8 Madras Regiment, refused to entertain any query from the media about the incident. 'We are here to perform the last rites of one of our men. If you want any information, please contact the 2 Mountain Division at Dinjan,' he said at Ujjani Tiphuk.

The soldier taking telephone calls at the Dinjan base curtly declined to pass on any message to his seniors. 'No officer is available,' he said.

Sources said the army's eastern command had sent two senior Calcutta-based military intelligence officers to Assam to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of the two soldiers.

The Assam government, too, instituted a magisterial inquiry. The report is to be submitted in a fortnight.

The coffin carrying the body of Major Chaurasia was taken to Patna on an Indian Airlines flight after post-mortem at the Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh.

At Sensowa's ancestral village, grief turned to anger after family members and friends sought a proper explanation from the army authorities about the cause of his death but got none. Elder brother Haresh said Dudu, the slain soldier's pet name, was scheduled to reach home tomorrow on a 10-day leave for Magh Bihu.

The sepoy's sisters were inconsolable. Padma, the elder one, shouted at the army team that took the body to the village. 'Tohote jabab diba lagibo (you will have to reply).'

The police and the army co-ordination committee will meet in Dibrugarh tomorrow.

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