Officer killed in encounter


    Tezpur, Jan. 3: A junior commissioned officer of 12 Assam Rifles was killed in an encounter with militants of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit) in Sonitpur district last night.

    Official sources said a group of 12 NDFB (S) rebels came down from the hilly Seijosa area near Pakke reserve forest in East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and opened fire on security forces.

    The security forces retaliated but a bullet hit an Assam Rifles junior commissioned officer, Ramesh Pratap Singh, during the gun battle. He was rushed to the 155 Army Base Hospital in Tezpur where he succumbed to his injuries.

    This is the first major casualty security forces have suffered since they launched an operation against the rebel group after the December 23 massacre of Adivasis in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts.

    The militants had gunned down 62 Adivasi villagers along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in Sonitpur and the Indo-Bhutan border in Kokrajhar.

    Col Rohit Pratap Sing Thakur, commanding officer of 12 Assam Rifles base at Lokra, told The Telegraph over phone that the deceased officer hailed from Uttarakhand and was involved in the operation against the NDFB (S). “He died from a bullet injury received during the encounter,” he said.

    Assam home commissioner L. Sweety Changsan confirmed the officer’s death.

    Sources said top NDFB (S) leaders have been taking shelter in the forests near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Seijosa is about 100km from Tezpur, the headquarters of Sonitpur district, and the encounter site is about 15km from the inner-line checkpost of Seijosa.

    A special operations group meeting of the Unified Command had yesterday decided to step up operation against the militants. Army, police, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), CRPF and the state home department officials attended the meeting that stressed better co-ordination between security agencies and the state government for results in operations against rebel groups.

    In Guwahati, chief minister Tarun Gogoi today rejected police claim that the December 23 massacre was carried out without I.K. Songbijit’s knowledge.

    In another incident, tension prevailed in a weekly market at Lokra in Sonitpur after a group of Adivasis armed with bows and arrows allegedly tried to attack some Bodos this afternoon. The market was immediately shut down and security forces rushed to the spot.

    An executive meeting of the Bodo National Conference, chaired by BNC president and BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary and held in Kokrajhar today, condemned the massacre carried out by NDFB (S).

    BNC general secretary Kampa Borgoyary and secretary Anjali Daimari condemned the carnage and urged the militants to shun the path of violence.

    BNC leaders have decided to visit the affected areas and hold a meeting with Adivasi National Convention and All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam on January 8 to discuss return of peace and normalcy in the area. The BNC has also rescheduled its annual convention from January 3 and 4 to January 19 and 20, given the prevailing situation.