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Amnesty seeks probe into Tawang police firing

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, May 5 - The Amnesty International India today demanded investigation in to the killing of anti-mega dam protesters at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on Monday, May 2. Two anti-mega dam protesters were killed in an incident of police opening fire on a group of people who were demanding release of Lama Lobsang Gyatso, secretary of the �Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF)�.

Lama Lobsang Gyatso is one of the most vocal opponents of the hydropower projects proposed to be set up in the Tawang Mon region of Arunachal Pradesh. The two killed in the police firing that day include Monk Nyima Wangdi (21) and Tshering Tempa (31). Seven others were injured.

The Amnesty International India said in a statement received here today that the authorities in Arunachal Pradesh must conduct a prompt, impartial and independent criminal investigation into the killing of two protesters in police firing in the town of Tawang.

�Firing live ammunition into a crowd when there is no apparent threat to life amounts to excessive use of force. This loss of life cannot be justified,� said Abhirr VP, senior campaigner, Amnesty International India.

Lama Jha, a monk from the Tawang monastery who was present at the protest, told Amnesty International India, �When we were protesting outside the police station, the police called three people and let them inside through a small gate. The police then beat them up. The crowd got angry. We started pushing the gate. Some threw stones. And suddenly the police opened fire at us without any warning. Some of us ran for our lives.�

Lama Pema Gyatso, another eyewitness, said, �There is some distance between the police station and the gate, which is near the boundary wall� The people started pushing the gate and throwing stones. They broke part of the gate� The police didn�t give us any warning and started firing.�

The Director General of Police, Arunachal Pradesh, said that the police fired in self-defence. He told Amnesty International India, �The police did warn the�protesters. We did fire tear gas shells. When 1,000 to 1,500 protesters storm the police station with stones and beer bottles what do you do?�

Lobsang Gyatso was released on personal bond later on May 2. He told Amnesty International India, �This is an attempt to tarnish the protests. I was inside the lockup when I heard the police shout about taking the ammunition out.�

The situation in Tawang remains tense. The State government has ordered a judicial inquiry.

�The police must use lethal force intentionally only as a last resort, when it is strictly unavoidable and in order to protect life. They must always distinguish between peaceful�protesters�and those using violence. Any police personnel found to�have used excessive force must be held accountable,� said Abhirr VP.

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