Dibrugarh/Golaghat, July 22: At least three persons, including a police constable and a suspected ULFA(I) linkman, were injured in separate encounters in Assam when they tried to escape from custody, officials said on Thursday.
In the first incident at Naharkatia in Dibrugarh district, a person who had come to collect extortion money from executives of Sarada Tea Factory allegedly on behalf of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I), was injured, they said.
"When the miscreant was about to take the bag containing money, the police in disguise tried to nab him but he attempted to escape by opening fire. Police team retaliated and he was nabbed," Dibrugarh Additional Superintendent of Police Bitul Chetia said. The accused suffered a bullet injury on his leg and was taken to the Assam Medical College and Hospital for treatment. He was involved in extortion activities and jailed in 2012, Chetia added. Since May, at least 15 suspected militants and criminals have been shot dead in police encounters in the state when they reportedly tried to snatch service weapons or attempted to escape from custody, while 27 accused were injured.
Meanwhile, ULFA(I) Chief Paresh Barua, in a statement, claimed that the organisation has not been involved in any extortion activity since it declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire on May 15. In the second incident at Bokakhat in Golaghat district, dreaded rhino poacher Thangouchin V Khamkhopau, who was arrested from Churachandpur district of Manipur on July 13, was shot at while he tried to get away from custody on Wednesday evening, police said.
"The Bokakhat police took him to a spot in Panbari Reserve Forest under the Kaziranga National Park in search of hidden arms. However, he tried to escape. The police had no option, but to fire at him on his leg," officials said. A police constable was also injured in the incident, they added. The rising number of shootouts has whipped up a political furore with the opposition alleging that the Assam Police has turned "trigger happy" and is indulging in "open killings" under the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led regime, which assumed charge on May 10.
Unfazed by the criticism, Sarma had said in the assembly on July 15 that the state police has "full operational liberty" to fight against criminals within the ambit of law. The Chief Minister had also recently said police would retaliate against miscreants trying to snatch service weapons, attacking personnel or fleeing from custody. On July 7, the Assam Human Rights Commission asked the state government to institute an enquiry into the circumstances that led to the death and injury of the accused in police encounters over the past two months.