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Assam student leader lynching: Prime accused killed in ‘escape bid’

🔴Police say were escorting him to a site to recover drugs at 1.30 am; was to appear in court hours later

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: December 2, 2021 7:42:34 am
Students of the Cotton University light candles to pay tribute to All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leader Animesh Bhuyan, who was lynched by a mob following an alleged road accident in Assam’s Jorhat district, in Guwahati, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (PTI Photo)

The prime accused in the lynching of AASU leader Animesh Bhuyan died in the wee hours of Wednesday, allegedly in a road accident while trying to flee police custody. Niraj Das was among the 13 arrested, including his father and brother, after Bhuyan was beaten to death on a busy street in Jorhat town Monday.

Jorhat SP Ankur Jain told The Indian Express that Das had “revealed some information on a hidden drug assignment”, and that they were escorting him around 1.30 am to the site where the consignment was allegedly stashed in Nakachari. “However, on the way there, Das jumped out of the back of the car and the escort vehicle behind him accidentally (ran) him over.”

As per police, the escort vehicle also lost its balance, and collided into a wall. Three policemen were reportedly injured along with Das in the incident, that reportedly happened on the Jorhat-Mariani road. They were rushed to Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, where Das was declared dead on arrival. Jain said the three policemen were “stable and discharged”. “However, many tests need to be done.”

Animesh Bhuyan

Soon after the incident, Special DG G P Singh, appointed by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to personally supervise the inquiry into Bhuyan’s killing, tweeted: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction – Newton’s Third Law.” Singh remained unavailable for comment.

Sarma tweeted Wednesday, “Assam will remain free of crime and criminal – come what May.” Later, he told reporters: “Many have said the Assam Police have done a good job. That is what I have been hearing since the morning. But I am still disturbed by the events because one of our own killed another of our own. How has our community arrived at this stage today?”

Out of the 13 accused in the lynching case, 12 were produced before court on Tuesday, and were manhandled in the court complex. Seven were remanded in police custody for five days and the remaining five in judicial custody. Das was not produced before the court as he was arrested on Tuesday morning and was supposed to be presented in court on Wednesday.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Das’s sister-in-law Asha Das called his death a “pre-planned murder”. “We do not believe what police are saying, that he wanted to flee. Under so much security, how could he?” Accusing the government of “authorising this”, she added: “Who are we to say anything?”

The family hails from Borigaon village in Jorhat. Das was 34 and a fish-seller, the family said. Asha also said that while there was a “mob of 50 involved” in Bhuyan’s lynching, only her brother-in-law was “singled out and targeted”.

Niraj Das

Bhuyan’s elder bother Bhaskar Jyoti said he didn’t want to comment on Das’s death. “But all I want to say is that we, and the rest of Assam, hope that the accused gets strictest punishment within the ambit of law.”

On Monday, Bhuyan had been attacked by a group after the vehicle in which he and two others were travelling allegedly hit Das’s father, who was riding a scooter. While Bhuyan died, his companions were injured, and are now out of hospital.

Police have said Bhuyan’s vehicle did not hit the scooter, but that Das’s father who was drunk had fallen off on own. Bhuyan and the others had rushed over to help him, police said, when the crowd attacked them after Das’s father started shouting that he had been hit.

SP Jain said Das was a “habitual offender”. “He has several drug-related cases against him.”

After Bhuyan’s killing led to an uproar, Sarma said police would file a chargesheet within a month and try the accused in a fast-track court. Special DGP Singh promised “strong and firm action” against the accused.

Since Sarma took over as CM on May 10, he has emphasised on a “zero tolerance policy” on criminals, giving the police “full operational liberty within the ambit of law” to function. In the past six months, more than 40 people have been injured, and 28 killed while purportedly trying to escape police custody, like Das.

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