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Assam: ‘Custody death’ victim’s wife among five booked under UAPA

Among those arrested in the arson case are the wife and minor daughter of Safikul Islam, a fish trader whose alleged custodial death had led to protests, and a mob torching Batadrava police station in Nagaon on Saturday.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: May 24, 2022 7:38:33 am
On Sunday morning, bulldozers reached the village, about 6 km from the station, and demolished homes of “those who were involved in setting fire to the police station,” police officers said. (Twitter/@MPAbdulKhaleque)

Assam Police on Monday said it would book five of the six people accused of setting fire to a police station in Nagaon district under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for their suspected terror links.

Among those arrested in the arson case are the wife and minor daughter of Safikul Islam, a fish trader whose alleged custodial death had led to protests, and a mob torching Batadrava police station in Nagaon on Saturday.

“In the video footage, both the wife and the daughter can be seen setting fire to the police station. The others arrested are also relatives (of the deceased),” Nagaon SP Leena Doley told The Indian Express. Doley said the minor has been apprehended as per Juvenile Justice rules. “We are treating her as a child in conflict with the law,” she said.

Doley said three cases were registered following the incident: a case of unnatural death in connection with Safikul’s death in custody; an arson case related to torching of the police station; and a UAPA case, since police suspect the accused have “terror links”.

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While the first two have been registered at Batadrava police station, the UAPA case was registered under Dhing police station, which has jurisdiction over the village of the accused people.

“We have been informed about many criminal activities of the accused persons…we suspect (they have) terror links, too, and have got in touch with the police in Barpeta and Bongaigaon districts to confirm whether any of them are linked to the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT),” Doley said.

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The ABT is a proscribed terrorist organisation in Bangladesh. Since March, Assam Police has arrested at least 10 people in Barpeta and Bongaigaon districts with alleged links to ABT.

The NIA is also probing the case. On Saturday, Doley said, the mob had come “prepared” to attack the police station. “While there was an element of reactive response following the death, there is more to it, considering the intensity and force of the attack. There were several instigators and we are identifying them all,” she said. The SP said the forensic report on Safikul’s death is not ready yet. “We are probing his death, too,” she said.

Safikul was arrested on Friday night after police found him allegedly inebriated. Police claim he died since he was unwell. Safikul’s family has alleged that police demanded Rs 10,000 and a duck as bribe to release him, and beat him up in custody, leading to his death.

Meanwhile, leaders from the opposition AIUDF and Congress visited the village on Monday and criticised the BJP-led government in the state.

AIUDF MLA Ashraful Hussain said the incident reflects “failure” of the police and demanded a judicial inquiry. “We demand that every perpetrator of this incident be brought to book and punished following due process of law,” he said. “What’s the court and the Constitution for if police are allowed to abuse the law with such impunity?” Trinamool Congress state president Ripun Bora said: “Why is the law not allowed to take its own course? Is it BJP Raj or Hitler Raj?”

Following Saturday’s mob violence and arson, the authorities on Sunday demolished homes of those who had allegedly set fire to the police station. This included Safikul’s home. According to police, the accused were “encroachers” and were staying on government land with “forged” documents.

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