Protest in Assam over army killing physically challenged boy

January 31st, 2009 - 11:42 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Jan 31 (IANS) The army is facing another fake shootout slur over the killing of a physically challenged Assamese teenager who they claimed was a separatist involved in the gunning down of two policemen. There has been widespread protest over the incident, including a near total 12-hour dawn-to-dusk shutdown Saturday, in Sonari area in Sivasagar district, about 390 km east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

On Thursday, two policemen were killed in a gunbattle with a group of militants belonging to the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). The security team comprised policemen and army soldiers belonging to the 318 Field Regiment.

A six-year-old boy was also injured in the crossfire. Soon after the two policemen were killed, army soldiers fanned out in the area and claimed to have gunned down one of the four ULFA rebels involved in the encounter.

Security forces later claimed they had recovered a pistol from the dead militant.

On Wednesday, the area burst into protest with hundreds of locals out on the streets claiming it was a fake shootout.

“My son Bishnu, aged about 18, has physical deformities in both his legs since birth and he just manages to walk. On Tuesday, he went to a nearby forest to collect firewood and while returning he was killed by the army soldiers who were chasing the militants after the encounter,” said Rajguru Tanti, father of the boy whom security forces claimed was an ULFA militant.

With various organisations and groups up in arms against security forces, top police, civil, and army officials visited the area to pacify the locals.

“We want the guilty army officials punished, an unconditional apology from the 318 Field Regiment, besides a government job to one of the family members of Bishnu,” a leader of the All Assam Tea Tribe’s Students Association demanded.

“We are assessing the situation,” said Sivasagar district magistrate N.M. Hussain. The government is expected to order an inquiry into the incident Saturday.

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