GUWAHATI: Paresh Baruah, the self-styled commander-in-chief of insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), has expressed regrets over the killing of a police officer.
Bhaskar Kalita, the officer in-charge of Bordumsa police station in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district, was killed in an encounter with ULFA insurgents on Friday evening.
“We regret the killing and we are deeply hurt by it. However, our intention is never to target the Assam Police. Our boys were cornered and they had to open fire for self-defence,” Baruah told local news channels.
“We had adopted a resolution five years ago that we will not target the Assam Police. We resolved that we will go only after the occupational forces (army and paramilitary). I am saddened that he (Kalita) was the only child in the family and his twins, aged only one-and-half-year, lost their father,” Baruah said.
A combined team of the police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), led by slain Kalita, had launched an operation on receipt of inputs about the presence of a group of ULFA militants at a house in Bordumsa bordering Arunachal Pradesh. When the personnel reached the site, they came under heavy fire from the militants who also triggered grenade blasts. Kalita was hit nine times on the chest by bullets fired by the militants from Tavor X95 rifle and two of them passed through his bullet-proof jacket.
The incident put a question mark on the efficacy of bullet-proof jackets used by policemen in Assam. Two years ago, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had questioned the purchase of equipment of dubious standard by the police department.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the incident, including the issue of the bullet-proof jackets, would be probed by a senior police officer.
Director General of Police (DGP), Kuladhar Saikia, told reporters that bullets could pierce through bullet-proof vest if hit at the same place several times.
Talking about the incident, he said the police had received inputs that the ULFA team was led by two dreaded rebels Jaan Asom and Rupam Asom.
“It was not an ambush on our personnel. After being briefed by the Superintendent of Police (SP), Tinsukia, they had launched the operation on receiving inputs that the insurgents were using a house as transit…We will intensify our operations and if strategic changes are to be made will be made,” Saikia said.
He said the police could not yet ascertain casualties on the rebels’ side as possible blood stains were washed away by the morning’s shower.
“We have lost a brave soldier. The SP, Tinsukia, told me that Kalita was a brave soldier,” the DGP added.
Ranjan Bora, at whose house the ULFA rebels were holed up, said he was threatened at gun point to give them shelter.
“When I refused to give them shelter, they threatened to beat me up and set my house on fire. They are young rebels aged less than 20 years,” Bora said.
Meanwhile, the mortal remains of Kalita were consigned to flames with state honours at his native village on the outskirts of Guwahati on Saturday.