Amidst the widespread protests against the police firing on a former student leader, alleged to be a drug peddler, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday asserted that action against criminals will continue.
The police firing in Nagaon in which a former All Assam Students' Union (AASU) leader Kirti Kamal Bora was injured on Saturday will be probed and the officers concerned will be punished, if they are found to be guilty, he said.
"Police action will continue against the criminals and the drug mafia. I have instructed police to make Assam crime free in the five years of my tenure," he told reporters on the sidelines of an official function here. The rising number of shootouts involving the force has created a political furore in the state with the opposition likening Sarma to German dictation Hitler. It alleged that the Assam Police has turned "trigger happy" and is indulging in "open killings" under the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led regime.
Asked to comment on the Nagaon firing, Sarma, who is also the state home minister, said "We have already ordered a probe. If the police is wrong, then they will be punished. But because of one wrong case, police action against the criminals will not stop." Bora, alleged by law enforcers to be a drug peddler, was injured in police firing in Assam's Nagaon district on Saturday, leading to the opposition and social groups calling it an effect of the prevailing "police jungle raj" and claiming that the present situation is worse than during the "secret killings" of the 1990s.
The term 'secret killings' refers to the extra judicial killings in the state during the late 1990s in which masked gunmen, doubted to be from security forces, had killed the kin of ULFA leaders. Police claimed that the former Nowgong College students union general secretary was selling drugs and he was shot in the leg after he had attacked law enforcers. AASU on the other hand alleged that he had protested to "drunken policemen" beating up a youth, which had irked the force personnel who fired at him.
In the face of loud criticism, Sarma had on Sunday announced a one-man commission of additional chief secretary Paban Kumar Borthakur to enquire into the circumstances leading to the police firing. Unfazed by criticism of his government over encounter killings, Sarma had on July 15 last year said in the Assam Assembly that the state police has "full operational liberty" to fight against criminals within the ambit of law.
The Assam Police sent the police personnel who was involved in the shooting incident to the police reserve on Sunday afternoon. Assam Youth Congress on Tuesday staged protests at several places across the state against the police firing on the former student leader and demanded a judicial probe by a retired high court judge.
"We will not tolerate such police brutality. This government is trying to destabilise peace in the state. Earlier it was secret killings, now it is open killings. We want a judicial probe by a retired high court judge," Assam Pradesh Youth Congress President Angkita Dutta said. A Congress delegation went to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital where Bora is under treatment for his injuries and COVID-19 and enquired about his health.
"It is very clear that Nagaon police tried to killed him. Now they are giving excuses to justify the encounter. It seems that the Nagaon police was trying to please its political boss," Assam Congress general secretary Apurba Kumar Bhattacharjee told reporters. He claimed that police action has become a "terror" for the people, who are now talking about "secret killings taking place in daylight".
"Is there Hitler's rule on in Assam?" Bhattacharjee, who is also the senior spokesperson of the state Congress, asked. Other opposition parties like Raijor Dal and Assam Jatiya Parishad too strongly criticised the police firing on Bora calling it as an "open killing" and demanded action against the guilty police officers.
Social organisations ike AASU, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Satra Mukti Sangram Samiti (SMSS) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) too have protested against the firing. Altogether 32 people have been killed and at least 68 injured in police action while allegedly trying to flee from custody or for attacking the personnel since the BJP government, led by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, assumed power in the state in May 2021.
The Gauhati High Court had on January 11 asked Assam government to file a detailed affidavit within two weeks on the police encounters that have been taking place unabatedly since May last year. The Assam government, however, failed to submit the detailed affidavit on the police encounters on Tuesday as sought by the court, which gave it more time and deferred the hearing to February 8.
With inputs from PTI.