Dibrugarh, Nov. 8: Bullets allegedly fired by soldiers at fleeing militants killed a five-year-old boy and wounded his teenaged sister in an Upper Assam village today, pegging the army back in its renewed offensive against Ulfa.
Debojit Moran was playing with his sister Dipanjali, 14, near their home at Number 1 Mohong village of Tinsukia district when they saw two youths running past them and an army team in hot pursuit. Before the duo could fathom what was happening, bullets struck Debojit in the hand and stomach.
“My brother died instantly. I realised that something had hit me, too, and blood was gushing out of my stomach,” Dipanjali said from her bed at the Assam Medical College and Hospital, struggling for words to describe the experience.
The All Assam Moran Students’ Union and the All Assam Muttock Yuba Chatra Sanmelan announced a 24-hour Tinsukia district bandh on Friday in protest against the incident. Both organisations were at the vanguard of the anti-army campaign in the wake of the custody death of Ajit Mahanta in the same district in February.
The incident occurred around 9.30 am, when troops from the 19 Kumaon Regiment were in the midst of an operation in the village after receiving specific information about the presence of some Ulfa militants in the area. The army issued an unsigned statement claiming that Debojit was killed in firing by the fleeing militants. “An army patrol from Pengeri carrying out area domination in the vicinity of Mohong 1 village cordoned off a suspect’s house to carry out a search. Ulfa terrorists fired on the army patrol from across a paddy field, in which one woman and a child were severely wounded. Scouts of the army patrol returned fire. Due to the presence of villagers and to avoid collateral damage, the army patrol could not go in pursuit or fire back in retaliation. The child succumbed to injuries while being evacuated by the army,” the statement said.
The army said a search of the suspect’s house yielded 450 live rounds of AK-56 ammunition, an AK-56 magazine, a SIM card, two mobile phones, a wallet with a slip bearing the name “SS Lance Corporal” Hiteshwar Hatibarua, approximately 250 gm of explosives and a few batteries connected with an electrical wire.
A witness contradicted the army’s version and corroborated what Dipanjali told the media. He said the bullets missed the fleeing youths and hit the brother-sister duo.
Dipanjali was taken to the Indian Oil Corporation Hospital in Digboi but shifted to Dibrugarh when her condition worsened.
Tinsukia superintendent of police Debojit Hazarika said the area was tense but under control.