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OC killed in shootout with ULFA(I) rebels at Bordumsa

Inquiry into quality of bulletproof vests 

Our Bureau

GUWAHATI/TINSUKIA, May 5: An ULFA rebel’s bullet that pierced through the bulletproof vest worn by Bordumsa police station officer-in-charge Bhaskar Kalita leaving him dead may also pierce through the entire system of procurement of such vests for the police personnel of the State. Such a possibility looms large with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and DGP Kuladhar Saikia dropping hints of ordering an inquiry that may ascertain the quality of bulletproof vests being procured for the State police personnel. The death of the OC shook Dispur. 

Talking to the media when asked as to how a bullet pierces through the OC’s bulletproof vest leaving him dead, the DGP said: “We’ll see if there’re any lapses. Some questions strike us as to when the bulletproof vests were supplied and by which firm. We need to see everything minutely.”

When asked on the bullet piercing the bulletproof vest which OC Bhaskar Kalita was wearing at the time of the encounter with ULFA rebels at Kujupathar along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in Tinsukia district on May 4, the Chief Minister said: “We’ll get the matter inquired by a top-level officer.”

After the incident, the DGP rushed to Kujupathar on Saturday morning and reviewed the situation there. Talking to The Sentinel from there, the DGP said: “Operations against the ULFA(I) will continue. All security agencies have been alerted. Search is on for ULFA(I) rebels. We’re keeping in touch with Arunachal Pradesh police as the area is adjacent to the neighbouring State. We’re with the bereaved family members of Bhaskar Kalita. I convey my sympathy to the family members.”

A sense of insecurity prevails among the police force engaged in operation in Tinsukia. They want a high-level inquiry into the quality of bulletproof vests being supplied to Tinsukia district. 

Meanwhile, information emanating from the Bordumsa area in Tinsukia district says that the ULFA(I) rebels took shelter in the house of one Ranjan Bora. A police team led by Bhaskar Kalita reached the spot after receiving a tip-off and engaged themselves in an encounter with the militants. The OC lost his life during the encounter. So far, there is no report of any injury to militants. Local people say the ULFA team comprised some young ones.

Meanwhile, self-styled ULFA(I) c-in-c Paresh Baruah claimed responsibility of the encounter, and expressed his sorrow at the killing of the OC. “We’ve been following a decision taken five years back of not attacking Assam police personnel as they’re our fellow beings. However, the encounter that led to the killing of the OC was unexpected. The police gheraoed my boys when they were having their meal. We convey our sympathy to the bereaved family of the OC,” Baruah said.

Meanwhile, the mortal remains of Kalita (37) were cremated at his native place Mazirgaon, Rajapara under Azara police station in Kamrup (Metro). He leaves behind his wife and twin minor children.          

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said his government will hunt down the culprits responsible for killing of Kalita, and a senior Assam Police official will head the investigation into the killing. He also said an inquiry will be conducted to verify reports and allegations that the bulletproof jacket which Kalita wore was not strong enough to withstand extremists’ bullets. 

While expressing grief over the death of Kalita, Sonowal said in his condolence message that Kalita’s courage and sacrifice would inspire all security personnel to fight against terrorism with renewed vigour. He announced an ex gratia of Rs 20 lakh to the family of the slain police officer while assuring that the family, in his absence, would be able to draw full salary till the time of his retirement. He also talked to the Kalita’s widow over telephone on Saturday evening.