The rains were pounding down that night—March 30, 2017—at Digaldong village in Assam’s Chirang district. Khwrmdao Basumatary, in his mid-forties then, was getting ready to call it a day after making sleeping arrangements for Lucas Narzary, 30, and David Islary, 25, who had taken shelter at his house amid the downpour. It was then that a group of gun-toting security personnel barged into the house. He was dragged out of his house, his hands tied up and assaulted over suspicion that he was a member of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an outlawed militant organisation waging war for a separate state to be carved out of Assam. He was let off only after his mother’s pleadings to the security personnel.
But Lucas and David were not that lucky. The two suspected NDFB cadres were taken away for “questioning” and their bullet-riddled bodies recovered the next day from a paddy field, not too far from Khwrmdao’s house. Security forces said they were killed in an “encounter”. But the official version soon fell apart. Rajnish Rai, a 1992-batch IPS officer who was then an Inspector General with the CRPF, filed an internal report that termed the incident a “fake encounter” by the combined team of the Indian Army, Assam Police, CRPF and Sasashtra Seema Bal (SSB) of two suspected militants of NDFB. Two months after Rai filed the report, he was transferred out of the Northeast.