Kakopathar (Tinsukia), Feb. 10: An Assam town exploded in mutiny to protest a death in army custody with 20,000 people marching 15 kilometres on a mission to burn down a police station.
Overwhelmed by the sight of such a multitude, police opened fire, killing at least five persons in the Upper Assam town of Kakopathar, 500 km from Guwahati. Unofficial sources pegged the toll at seven. Among the dead is a CRPF jawan.
Indefinite curfew has been clamped in the town in Tinsukia district from 7 pm and the army has moved in.
Residents of Kakopathar have been blocking National Highway 52 since the death of Ajit Mahanta in army custody came to light early this week. They have been demanding a public trial of the army personnel linked to the death.
However, around 1 pm today, the huge column of protesters started moving towards Kakopathar police station, the police said.
The mood turned ugly after the protesters covered around 12 km. They set a police vehicle ablaze and damaged two buses.
Police said the forces first burst tear-gas shells and then fired in the air, but the protesters pressed ahead. They were about 3 km from Kakopathar police station when some announced their intention to set the police station on fire.
The threat prompted the police to fire on the crowd. The area was cleared of protesters by around 7 pm, when the police again fired in the air.
A senior police official said the Assam government ' the Congress regime is facing polls in the next few months ' allowed the situation to drift by not taking any action against the protesters when they blocked the highway for the first time on Monday. “They grew bolder by the day,” he said.
On Wednesday, the army said it was working out a compensation and rehabilitation package for Ajit’s family.
Termed an “active Ulfa linkman”, Ajit is said to have sustained fatal internal injuries in a fall while trying to escape.
A team from the 1/3 Gorkha Rifles had ostensibly asked him to guide the squad to an Ulfa “treasure chest” of weapons and cash.