A protest erupted in the Bodoland Territorial Region on Monday against killing of two youths by the police in Assam’s Kokrajhar district, reported Northeast Now.

Family members of the two killed on Saturday – Janak Brahma and Jawngsar Mushahary – have alleged that they were killed in a staged gunfight with the police.

However, the police have refuted the allegations. The police claimed that the two men were members of the newly-floated militant outfit, the United Liberation of Bodoland, and were involved in “rampant extortion”, reported The Indian Express.

They said that Brahma and Mushahary were held with weapons on September 17. They told the police about a camp of the United Liberation of Bodoland in the Ultapani Reserve Forest area in Kokrajhar.

The police claimed that the next day, they conducted an operation to flush out the militants from the camp.

“When the police party [along with the two suspected militants] reached near their camp, suddenly miscreants started firing upon the police party and in retaliation police party took lying position and started controlled fire towards the extremist party,” Kokrajhar Police said in a statement, according to The Indian Express.

During the 30-minute long exchange of fire, Brahma and Mushahary tried to flee towards the militants’ camp and were later found dead, the police said.

“They died in crossfire,” said Surjeet Singh Panesar, Additional Superintendent of Police of Kokrajhar.

However, locals have alleged that the two were not part of the United Liberation of Bodoland and that the gunfight was staged. In a video message, the United Liberation of Bodoland have also denied that Brahma and Mushahary were members of the outfit.

The Assam government has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the deaths of the two men, PTI reported. Divisional Commissioner of Lower Assam Jayant Narlikar has been directed to conduct the inquiry and submit a report in 15 days.

On Sunday, hundreds of locals came out in protest against the killings and carried Mushahary’s body around his village before his last rites were performed. On Monday, the All Bodo Peoples called for a 12-hour shutdown in the Bodoland Territorial Region, reported PTI.

Officials said no untoward incident was reported from the region, which comprises of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts and is predominantly inhabited by members of the Bodo community.

Chief Executive Member of the Bodo Territorial Council Pramod Boro called the incident “unfortunate” and said that Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma too was concerned about it.

“I have discussed it with the authorities and there will be a proper investigation,” said Boro, who is the chief of the United People’s Party Liberal, an ally of the BJP in Assam.

The All Bodo Students’ Union has demanded an independent and high-level judicial inquiry into the incident.

The Congress too condemned the killings.

“We have lost trust in Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma,” Congress leader Garjan Mushahary said. “This is a big injustice done to the Bodo people. The accord was supposed to be a peace accord but where is peace in BTR [Bodoland Territorial Region]?”

At least 26 suspected militants and criminals have been shot dead in gunfights with the police since the current Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Himanta Biswa Sarma assumed office on May 10, according to PTI.

The United Liberation of Bodoland was formed last week and demands a separate Bodoland state, The Indian Express reported. The outfit has 20-25 cadres, many of whom are former members of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, a separatist outfit.

Many members of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland had given up the armed struggle after the Centre signed the third Bodoland peace accord with four factions of the organisation and the All Bodo Students’ Union, which was spearheading the movement for a Bodoland state, in January last year.

After the “memorandum of settlement”, the All Bodo Students’ Union had “suspended” its core demand of statehood. The government, for its part, committed to rehabilitating the cadres of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

To signal the signing of the accord, the area earlier called the the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts was renamed Bodoland Territorial Region.