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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Assam encounters: Congress writes to human rights body; Himanta says ‘police action to go on’ while he is CM

"If someone is caught with 3kg of heroin, are we supposed to felicitate them with a gamosa in the Congress office?” CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: January 26, 2022 2:58:11 am
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. (Photo: Twitter/@himantabiswa)

Even as Leader of Opposition in state Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, on Tuesday wrote to Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and requested the rights panel to ensure that the state government is made answerable on rising police encounters in the state, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said “action on criminals will continue” as long as he is the chief minister.

At least 30 people have been killed and more than 60 injured in police action since Sarma assumed office in May last year, the atest being the shooting of former student leader, Kirti Kamal Bora, on Saturday evening during an anti-drugs operation in Nagaon.

Citing Bora’s injury, Saikia stated in his letter to AHRC that the developments are “very unfortunate” and has weakened the judicial system.

Citing specific incidents, Saikia wrote that a majority of those killed in police encounters belonged to ethnic and religious minorities — he mentioned that 14 of those killed belonged to the Muslim community, and 10 came from Bodo, Dimasa and Kuki tribes. “Assam has a history of secret killings, which scarred the society and similar things appear to be happening now,” he wrote.

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Saikia stated that the current practice of “shooting an accused even before his crime” could become counter-productive and go against public interest.

Taking on the Opposition, Sarma said this is the first time he had seen a political party “supporting gundas and criminals”. He said: “Instead of defending the drug mafia, the Congress should speak for many families destroyed by the mafia. If someone is caught with 3 kg heroin, are we supposed to felicitate them with a gamosa (towel) in Congress office?”

On Tuesday, an encounter took place in Kokrajhar district, when a suspected drug peddler was shot at as he allegedly tried to flee custody. He is currently in hospital.

Earlier in the day, the state government failed to file an affidavit on the police encounters, as ordered by Gauhati High Court on January 11. The state’s Advocate General, Devajit Lon Saikia, sought extension of 10 days to file the affidavit. The court, which was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Arif Jwadder on the encounters, granted extension “in the interest of justice”.

The court will next hear the case on February 8.

“This is the first time we have asked for an extension,” the A-G told The Indian Express. “The court had earlier asked us to prepare the affidavit but since we could not complete it, the court has given us an extension of 10 days.”

He said the Home and Political departments will prepare and file the affidavit.


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