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Assam CM Sarma’s ‘zero tolerance’ to crime: 48 injured, 28 dead in police action since May

On Wednesday morning, Niraj Das, the prime accused in the lynching of Animesh Bhuyan, a 28-year-old AASU leader, in Assam's Jorhat, was killed in a road accident in an alleged bid to escape from police custody.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: December 1, 2021 2:35:27 pm
The Opposition has accused Himanta Biswa Sarma, who became the CM in May, of encouraging a “trigger happy” police. (Representative Image)

With the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led Assam government adopting a “zero tolerance” policy against crime, at least 48 alleged criminals have been injured and 28 killed in firing incidents in the state since May, as per official Assam Police records available with The Indian Express. In July, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had taken up the matter suo motu.

On Wednesday morning, Niraj Das, the prime accused in the lynching of Animesh Bhuyan, a 28-year-old AASU leader, in Assam’s Jorhat, was killed in a road accident in an alleged bid to escape from police custody.

Bhuyan’s death had created a furore in the state, with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma directing police to file a chargesheet within one month and Assam Special DGP G P Singh to personally supervise the inquiry.

The accused injured or killed in alleged bids to escape in the past six months had been held for crimes such as cattle-smuggling, rape, murder, drug-peddling etc. As per Assam Police data, of the 28 killed, four were drug peddlers, two protesters against government eviction drives, 11 “extremists”, and 11 “criminals”.

As The Indian Express reported in July, four of those injured and one who died were all shot in the leg. The same month, Sarma said at a conference attended by police officers that there was nothing wrong in police firing being “a pattern”, if someone was “trying to flee”. “Police cannot shoot him in the chest, but shooting at the leg is the law.”

During the Assembly session in July he said his government would continue its “zero tolerance policy” on criminals, and that he was ready to face “any kind of criticism”. “My clear instruction (to police) is do not break the law, but within the law… you take extreme action, and the Assam government is going to protect you.” He had later reiterated that he had given police “full operational freedom” to take the “toughest of actions” within the ambit of law to deal with criminals. Sarma’s government has also declared a ‘War on Drugs’, as part of which at least 2,000 people have been arrested since he took charge as chief minister.

The Opposition has accused Sarma, who became the CM in May, of encouraging a “trigger happy” police. Defending the shootings, a top police official said the developments were “in the interest of the people of Assam”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Special DGP Singh said that since May, “law and order had improved in the state”, barring “isolated incidents”.

On Wednesday replying to a tweet criticising Das’s death, Singh wrote: “Without taking away from our failures, At times, we’ve to carry the load of failure of the other partner institutions of the Criminal Justice System.”

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