The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army kills tea worker by mistake
- Twin inquiries instituted

Sonari, Nov. 26: An army team that was lying in wait for Ulfa militants today mistakenly shot dead a tea garden employee in Sivasagar district of Assam.

Sadananda Tantabai, a 28-year-old labour sardar from Banamali tea estate in Charaideo subdivision, was on a scooter with two friends when bullets fired by the army team felled him. He was taken to the Sonari subsidiary health centre, where a doctor declared him “brought dead”.

The army described the shooting as an “unfortunate incident” that occurred because of mistaken identity and instituted an inquiry. “The personnel fired only at the scooter tyres to stop the three men when they tried to flee. It was unfortunate that bullets hit one of them,” it said.

Sadananda and his friends Biren Borgohain and Prabhat Borgohain were returning home from Napuk tea estate, about 7km away, after watching a film when they ran into the army team at a roadside bus stop in Disangpani. The army claimed that the victim revved up his two-wheeler and sped away instead of stopping when asked to.

Prabhat and Biren escaped the bullets only because they fell down from the scooter. The duo told the media at Sonari police station later that the soldiers gave no warning before opening fire. “In fact, we did not see any army personnel when we were passing by. We saw jawans running towards us only after we fell down from the scooter,” Prabhat said.

The duo also accused the army of not doing enough to save their friend’s life despite realising their mistake. Biren said he and Prabhat pleaded with the soldiers to shift Sadananda to hospital immediately, but a vehicle arrived only about half-an hour after the shooting.

Former minister Sarat Borkotoky, who is the local MLA, was among the first to visit Sadananda’s family. The Sivasagar district administration ordered a probe by additional deputy commissioner Harish Dutta.

Deputy commissioner Nawab A. Hussain announced ex gratia of Rs 10,000 to the victim’s family.

Relatives said Sadananda had gone to Napuk, where his in-laws are based, for Raas Utsav.

The film that he watched with his friends was an open-air show that had been organised as part of the celebrations.

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