police firing at Baghjan
A view of the police firing. Image credit - Northeast Now

A total of 9 people, including 4 police personnel and 5 protestors, were injured on Saturday during a clash between Assam Police personnel and protestors at Baghjan in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district.

Tinsukia Police on Saturday had to resort to open fire in the air and used baton-charge to disperse a group of protesters, who blocked the approach road leading to the Baghjan oil field area.

The approach road has been blocked by the protestors for the past one week demanding full compensation for the people who were affected in the Baghjan fire.

Police said five protesters suffered injuries as police baton-charged them while four policemen were also injured as the fleeing protesters pelted stones at the police force.

Police said they had to open fire tear gas shells and rubber bullets to control the situation.

The protesters, who are residents of the Baghjan area and were affected by last year’s blowout at the Baghjan gas well of Oil India Limited (OIL) in the Tinsukia district, have been demanding the release of the full amount of compensation as fixed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The protesters have been squatting on the road hampering the movement of vehicles and crew of Oil India Limited to the oil field area for the last one week.

protest at Baghjan
Police at the protest site in Baghjan. Image credit – Northeast Now
Police at the protest site in Baghjan. Image credit – Northeast Now

On Saturday morning, officials of the Tinsukia district administration, accompanied by police and CRPF personnel, reached the site and requested the agitators to clear the road.

As the protesters refused to lift the blockade even after several appeals, orders were given to evict the squatters using force.

“For the past several days, the people of the area have been blocking a strategic approach road to the Baghjan oil field. They even refused to let the vehicles pass and equipment of Oil India Limited,” Tinsukia SP Debojit Deuri said.

“They were adamant that unless the full compensation amount is paid they won’t allow movement of vehicles or people,” Deuir added.

Deuri further said, “Today, we tried to reason with them to lift the blockade but they remained unmoved. Ultimately, we had to lathi-charge the protesters to disperse them.”

“But some of them started pelting stones at the police personnel following which we had to fire rubber bullets and tear gas. Five protesters suffered minor injuries while four policemen were injured in the stone-pelting. One vehicle was also damaged in the stone-pelting,” the Tinsukia police chief said.

The protesters claimed that even after one year of the May 27, 2020, Baghjan blowout, most of the affected people are yet to receive the full compensation amount.

According to OIL, it has been compensating the victims in a phase-wise manner and many are still on the waiting list.

“We strongly condemn today’s incident. Instead of sympathising with the people, the government is resorting to high-handedness. The whole responsibility for today’s incident lies with the government and the district machinery,” said Satyajit Moran, president of Baghjan Gaon Milanjyoti Yuba Sangha.

He said, “Last year, the NGT expert panel fixed compensation of Rs 25 lakh to 173 families and Rs 20 lakh to 439 families affected by the Baghjan blowout. But as of date, only 12 families have received Rs 25 lakh, 161 families have received Rs 15 lakh and 439 families have received Rs 10 lakh.”

Avik Chakraborty

Avik Chakraborty is Northeast Now Correspondent in Dibrugarh. He can be reached at: babs8oct@gmail.com