DEEPTIMAN TIWARY delves into the report of CRPF IG (N-E) Rajnish Rai that raises questions over an alleged Assam encounter.
In his report questioning an encounter leading to the killing of two alleged NDFB(S) operatives in Chirang of Assam, CRPF IGP (N-E Sector) Rajnish Rai first describes the special situation report prepared by the encounter team, then goes on to detail the findings of his own discreet enquiry report.
Lucas Narzary alias N Langfa and David Islary alias Dayud were killed on March 30 in a joint operation by the Army, Assam Police, CRPF and SSB. Rai’s April 17 report is marked to Assam chief secretary V K Piperseina, then acting CRPF DG Sudeep Lakhtakia; GOC, 4 Corps, & Chairperson, Operational Group, Unified Command, Lt Gen A S Bedi; Assam DG Mukesh Sahay, SSB DG Archana Ramasundaram; and CRPF ADG (NE Zone) Mohd Javed Akhtar.
What security forces reported
Rai’s report quotes from the special situation report prepared by the forces. It claimed that in the early hours of March 30, Assam Police, 7th Sikh Light Infantry, 156 Battalion of CRPF, 210 Battalion of CoBRA (CRPF) and SSB conducted a joint operation in Simlaguri of Chirang district based on intelligence inputs about the movement of four or five NDFB(S) cadres. Around 4.30 am, the situation report said, the team came under fire from NDFB(S) cadres after they were challenged. In retaliatory fire, it added, two cadres were injured and later died. The report identified the two and said the team recovered a 5.56 mm INSAS rifle along with magazine and two live rounds of 5.56 ammunition, nine empty cases of 5.56 ammunition, a 7.65 mm revolver along with three rounds of 7.65 ammunition, three empty cases of 7.65 ammunition and a Chinese hand grenade from the bodies.
What Rai’s report says on probe
Based on the special situation report, Rai prepared a report and sent it to the CRPF ADG (Northeast Zone), CRPF DG and IG (operations). A few hours after that, says his later report, the commandant (operations) of the Northeast Sector informed Rai that “there appeared to be a mismatch between the initial reports received about the joint operation and the events that actually occurred in the field”. Thereafter, Rai’s reports claims, he learnt from another senior CRPF officer that the event did not occur as reported.
After sounding out his superiors in Delhi, Rai claims to have received a confidential report from his senior officer that said “the two NDFB(S) cadres shown to have been killed in a hostile engagement with the security forces were actually first apprehended in village D-Kalling, and later killed by security forces at a different place near village Simlaguri on the same day after a few hours.”
Following this, the report says, a discreet enquiry under another senior officer was ordered. This probe examined the reports prepared by all forces engaged in the operation as well as the FIR filed by Assam Police; it also examined those involved in the operation. It has cited nine witnesses and nine documents. The report, however, admits the probe officer did not visit “the places of occurrence” and record statements of civilian witnesses “due to apprehensions of exposure, hostility and retaliation from local villagers”.
What probe claims it found
# On March 29 at 11.30 pm, the Amguri police station requisitioned a platoon of 156 Bn CRPF for an operation. At about 1 am, the platoon left Amguri police station with Assam Police DSP Manas Saikia and two people in civil dress who were guides.
# After reaching Ouguri bridge, the joint team left their vehicles and proceeded on foot to reach D-Kalling village, 3.5 km away, at 2.45 am. Here the guides identified the house where suspected NDFB(S) cadres were holed up.
# On entering the house the joint team found a boy, 10 or 11, sleeping in the front room and two young men sleeping in another room. A hand grenade was recovered from under their pillow. Right then a woman from the adjacent house came and took away the boy claiming he was her son.
# When the team reached Ouguri market, it was joined by another, led by Chirang additional SP B P Barkakoti. Barkakoti’s team included police, Army and 210 CoBRA personnel. From this point, Barkakoti led all the teams and all left Ouguri after a discussion.
# At 4.30 am, the convoy stopped on the road near Simlaguri, the report says. “Soon thereafter, the sound of gunshots was heard. Both the persons apprehended from the village D-Kalling were found lying injured by the roadside in an unconscious state with gunshot wounds. One INSAS Rifle, a revolver, one Chinese hand grenade and a few empty cartridges were also lying on the ground near them,” the report says.
The report claims that though 210 CoBRA was involved in the operations according to all official reports, when the inquiry officer examined some of those said to have been involved they flatly denied having participated. This, the report claims, shows that something was amiss since they had earlier claimed credit for the operation.
The probe officer also examined the GPS track log of Team No. 15 of E/210 CoBRA. “The team… had visited the area of the alleged hostile engagement… with the NDFB(S) cadres twice — on the first occasion they stayed there for 15 minutes (from 0214 to 0219 hrs) and on the second occasion for about 80 minutes (from 0420 to 0540 hrs),” the report says. “It begs an answer as to why the CoBRA team had visited the said spot twice on the same day within a few hours.”
The report says that the FIR filed by Assam Police on the operation and the special situation report prepared by other special forces “present a fictitious account of the joint operation by the security forces to conceal pre-planned murders of two persons in custody and present it as some brave act of professional achievement”.
What the report recommends
The report says that since multiple security forces are involved in the incident, it is necessary to entrust the investigation to an external independent agency for impartial and thorough investigation.
“The security forces involved in the joint operation must truly reflect how systems and processes have weakened over a period of time, resulting in commission of such unlawful acts in a planned and coordinated manner. It is absolutely necessary that urgent systemic reforms be initiated to prevent such wrongdoings in future,” it concludes.
Who is Rajnish Rai
Inspector general of police Rajnish Rai, who has filed a report questioning the March 30 encounter in Assam’s Chirang district, is a 1992 batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre now serving as CRPF IG (Northeast Sector).
In April 2007, Rai had arrested three top IPS officers of Gujarat — D G Vanzara, M N Dinesh, Rajkumar Pandiyan — in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. The encounter was initially probed by IPS officer Geetha Johri, who was replaced when she implicated the three officers. And after Rai arrested the officers, apparently without informing his superiors, he was transferred to the state crime records bureau.
When his ACR was downgraded, Rai went to the Central Administrative Tribunal and in an affidavit accused former DG P C Pande of “an acquiescent role to the criminal conspiracy of Amit Shah” in the Sohrabuddin case.