ULFA regrets killing Assam cop in encounter

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GUWAHATI, May 5: The United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) has regretted killing Assam police officer Bhaskar Kalita during a prolonged encounter Friday evening.
The police officer, 34, succumbed to bullet injuries after he led a joint team of Assam Police and Central Reserved Paramilitary Force for a counter-insurgency operation at Kujupathar village in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.
Kujupathar, close to Assam’s border with Arunachal Pradesh, is within the jurisdiction of Bordumsa Police Station that Mr. Kalita headed as the officer in-charge.
The outfit’s fugitive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah on Saturday said their fight is against armed forces of “occupational India” and not “our people” in the Assam Police. He also reminded the ULFA-I’s decision five years ago not to target the State police personnel.
“Our boys did not intend to kill Bhaskar Kalita, who was a son of the soil. They fired in self-defence when attacked by the Assam Police and Cobra commandos of the CRPF. He should not have led the operation against us, but we are deeply hurt by his death,” Mr. Baruah said in a message from somewhere on the Myanmar-China border.
“We also regret that the police officer’s death went against our five-year-old resolve not to attack the Assam Police,” the ULFA-I chief said.
Teenage rebels
Kalita had proceeded on leave on Friday when his seniors called him back to lead the operation based on intelligence inputs that a group of militants had taken refuge at Kujupathar village, possibly for a major offensive.
The police-CRPF team accordingly cordoned off the village and began zeroing in on the house where the militants were holed up, at around 4 pm.
The security forces and the militants exchanged gunfire till 10:30 pm. While the encounter left Mr. Kalita seriously wounded – he died at the Tinsukia Civil Hospital later – the militants are believed to have escaped at night.
Ranjan Bora, owner of the house at the centre of the operation, said half a dozen armed boys had barged in Thursday afternoon. “They threatened to burn down the house if we did not let them stay. They all looked very young, maybe about 18-19 years old,” he said, saying members of his family survived the barrage of bullets.
Bora, his wife and a young girl were in a separate unit of the house when the encounter happened. They told the police they had no idea when and how the boys vanished.
“We have information about ULFA-I having recruited young people, but the outfit has been weakened to a large extent,” Kuladhar Saikia, Assam’s Director General of Police, said.
Vest quality in doubt
Kalita had five bullet injuries on his body. Two of the bullets had pierced his bullet-proof vest to hit his chest and abdomen.
This has raised doubts about the quality of the vests. “We will order a probe,” Mugdhajyoti Mahanta, Tinsukia’s superintendent of police, said.
Saikia said sophisticated firearms can pierce bullet-proof vests, but said the vests with the Assam Police will be scrutinised. There are reports that the militants used the Israeli Tavor X95 rifles, which if confirmed, will be a departure from the Chinese copies of Kalashnikov assault rifles that they prefer.
The Committee on Public Accounts of the Assam Assembly had in February 2003 asked the State government to institute an inquiry into a bullet-proof jacket scam in the police department. The police had allegedly procured 1,673 such jackets of dubious quality in May 1995 from a Delhi-based firm, ignoring the more reliable one made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Kalita was expected to reach home in Azara near Guwahati for a wedding in the family on Saturday. He was instead brought in a coffin by a special afternoon flight for a state funeral.
He is survived by his ailing parents, wife Sangeeta Kalita and three-year-old twins – a boy and a girl.
(Courtesy: The Hindu)