JHAPA, Oct 27: At least one person was killed and a score others injured as police opened fire in Birtamod on Friday morning to disperse locals demanding a probe into the mysterious death of an 11-year old. The person killed in the police action has been identified as Nawa Raj Thapa of Arjundhara Municipality- 11.
Although Jhapa District Police chief SP Bishnu Kumar KC confirmed the death of Thapa only as of Friday evening, locals claimed that there could be more fatalities in the police firing. “Police personnel were seen putting those injured in the firing into their vans,” a local who participated in the protest said. “Police have been hiding the truth, saying only one individual was killed in the incident.”
Eyewitnesses said at least 35 agitators were injured in police firing. The injured are currently undergoing treatment at various hospitals in Birtamod and Bhadrapur.
Local human rights activists have alleged indifference on the part of police in investigating the 'mysterious death' of 11-year old Laxman Siwakoti on Vijaya Dashami, September 28. Locals have accused Deputy Superintendent of Police Raj Kumar Silwal at Birtamod Police Office of not properly addressing the concerns of the victim's family and villagers and of being in collusion with the family of those suspected of the murder.
DSP Silwal said some 35 police personnel were injured in the incident. He said chief of the Armed Police Force Border Outpost Office Ramesh Subedi sustained injury to the head.
Laxman was reported missing for a day after he went to the house of next door neighbor Suresh Pokharel. The child was found dead the next day in a pool of flood water. The victim's family filed a complaint with the police, citing the hand of the Pokharel family in the death.
The victim's family had been complaining against DSP Silwal for not showing seriousness in investigations into the 'mysterious death'. The locals had started agitating since Friday morning, demanding that the police show the progress made so far in the investigations.
Soon after locals began protesting, police resorted to indiscriminate baton charges. The agitators then started pelting stones to protest police excess.
Police have rounded up scores of locals in a bid to prevent the crowd turning violent again, according to locals. However, police have not disclosed the exact number of those arrested.
As police efforts to disperse the agitating protestors failed, an indefinite curfew was clamped since 1:30 p.m. in an area stretching two kilometers from downtown Birtamod . Police have claimed that the agitators were involved in arson and vandalism even after the curfew came into effect.
Irate protestors have vandalized the District Traffic Police Office, District Roads Office and the private houses Biratmod Mayor Dhruva Siwakoti. They also damaged his vehicle. Several dozers and tractors parked at the roads office were also vandalized.
Chairman of Birtamod Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kumar Bhattarai said damage amounting to millions resulted from the scuffles between police and agitators. “We are not in a position to say exactly how much damage has been caused. But it is estimated to exceed Rs 10 million.”
Locals argue that the situation deteriorated after police paid no heed to genuine demands for a thorough investigation into the child's death. The situation became more aggravated after police used force against the protests.
Locals had earlier announced a general shutdown in Birtamod on Friday to expose police laxity over the case. They had also planned to walk around the city, protesting police failure to bring out the truth behind the death even 24 days later.