The eastern Assam town of Doomdooma erupted in public anger on Sunday evening following the death of a tea garden night watchman, killed by the army in an alleged fake encounter.
Till the time of reporting, some 700 residents of Bishnupur-Jyotibari village refused to call off their siege on Doomdooma police station until the authorities clarified the reason why 28-year-old Budheswar Moran was shot. The village in Tinsukia district is 12 km from Doomdooma town.
According to a senior district police officer, troops of the 6JK Light Infantry handed over the bullet-riddled body of Moran in the morning. The soldiers reported that Moran was a member of the outlawed Ulfa, and was killed in an encounter at Laopatigaon around 1.30 am on Sunday. Laopatigaon is sited eight km Moran's native village.
The news of Moran's death angered the residents of Bishnupur and adjoining villages. While the members of Moran's family refused to take his body, the villagers sought relief from "army atrocities". Moran is survived by his wife, three-year-old daughter and three-month-old son.
"As a rule, all the males of Bishnupur village have been reporting to the nearest army unit thrice a week. The rule applied to Moran, who was working in a small private garden. But for some reason best known to them, army officials had a month back excused Moran from reporting," said local resident S Gohain. "Moran could never have been in the Ulfa."
The outfit, too, echoed the villagers. Jiten Dutta, 'commanding officer' of the Ulfa's dreaded 28th battalion, said: "We never had any Budheswar Moran in the organisation, and this is one of many incidents of fake encounters by the armed forces."
While army officials remained incommunicado, police officials said they were monitoring the situation in Doomdooma. "Things could get out of hand if this (gherao of police station) continues," a senior police officer said.
The Moran episode is reminiscent of the encounter death of Ajit Mahanta in February last year. Mahanta, a daily wage earner and resident of a village near Kakopathar, also in Tinsukia district, was picked up by the army and killed. His body was dumped outside a hospital in Dibrugarh. Mahanta's death triggered mass protests, and eight persons including CRPF personnel were killed in the resultant agitation.