Four killed, several hurt in Assam police firing

March 13th, 2008 - 4:52 pm ICT by admin  

Guwahati, March 13 (IANS) Four people were killed and several injured when police opened fire in northeastern India’s Assam state Thursday to quell a mob that had turned violent to protest an attempt by authorities to dismantle an office set up by a frontline separatist group, officials said. The incident at the town of Bengtol, in the western Chirang district, took place after more than 2,000 local people confronted officials who had arrived to pull down an office said to have been set up illegally by the rebel National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB).

“Our officials tried to pacify the mob by agreeing to put the operation on hold, but the protestors resorted to large scale arson, damaging several government offices. The police fired in the air to disperse the crowd, but four people were killed inadvertently,” said P. Deka, additional district magistrate of Chirang.

An unspecified number of people who were injured in the firing and the resultant melee have been admitted to local hospitals in the area. The situation in Chirang is tense, with authorities rushing police and paramilitary reinforcements.

The NDFB, a Bodo militant group fighting for an independent homeland for the ethnic group, has been on a ceasefire with the central government since 2005 and is supposed to operate out of designated camps until a solution is worked out.

In recent weeks, however, there have been reports of NDFB cadres clashing with supporters of the erstwhile Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), a rival militant group that has since been disbanded following the signing of an agreement between the group and the central government in 2003.

Former BLT leaders are now running the 40-member politico-administrative structure called the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) that has been given an annual budgetary allocation of Rs.1 billion to push development programmes in the area independently.

Witnesses quoted locals as saying they were in favour of the NDFB office in question to be located in the area as they felt safe that way. These locals alleged that supporters of the erstwhile BLT were creating a reign of terror in the area and the presence of the NDFB office there had succeeded in restoring order to the place.

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