The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army called out in Assam curfew zone

Dibrugarh, Nov. 26: The thud of soldiers’ boots hitting the gravelled turf was the only sound that broke the silence in Lekhapani a day after clashes between police and protesters led to firing and indefinite curfew.

Army personnel patrolled the areas under Lekhapani police station, in Margherita subdivision of Tinsukia district, with police and paramilitary forces all day to implement the curfew that was clamped from 5 pm yesterday. Although there was no sign of violence or resistance, tension continued to envelop the whole of Margherita subdivision.

The police opened fire yesterday — five persons were wounded — when protesters turned violent while staging demonstrations at different places against Dispur’s decision to form a Tirap Autonomous District Council for an area that they claimed was dominated by non-tribals.

The protesters had resorted to blockades in Tirap, Lekhapani and Jagun primarily to stop chief minister Tarun Gogoi from visiting the area. Gogoi was supposed to attend a function organised by the Tirap Autonomous Council Demand Committee and make a formal announcement on the formation of the council.

Sources said CRPF and police personnel initially burst teargas shells, resorted to a lathicharge and fired in the air. But when the mob refused to relent, shoot-at-sight orders were issued.

Neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh has since been apprised of the situation to preclude a spillover of the violence, a district official said.

Eleven persons were rounded up by the police in connection with the violence yesterday.

Upper Assam commissioner Hemanta Narzary, deputy inspector-general of police (eastern range) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta and other senior district and police officials are camping in Jairampur, bordering Arunachal Pradesh.

“We are analysing the situation which now appears to be under control. Extra forces have been called as reinforcement. We appeal to the people not to take the law into their own hands,” Tinsukia deputy commissioner A.K. Absar Hazarika said over the phone.

Normal life was affected in the entire district as the Gorkha Students Union called a 12-hour Tinsukia bandh today to protest the firing.

The All Assam Tea Tribes Students Association has extended its support to the bandh.

“We are trying our best to bring back normality in the area. Six of our men, including additional deputy commissioner Haresh Dutta, were injured in stone pelting. Sub-divisional officer (civil) Jogesh Baruah’s vehicle was torched. Minimum force were used to disperse the protesters, otherwise there would have been a heavy casualty toll,” Hazarika added.

Three of those injured in the firing — Bithu Rai, Kamal Chettry and Shyam Bahadur Chettry — who were admitted to the Assam Medical College Hospital here last night, are reportedly out of danger.

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