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Assam: Days after ‘threats’ led to local man’s suicide, house of one accused razed

“It was an illegal structure and they did not have building permission. The building was in a precarious condition…it (also) violated certain norms,” a senior district administration official told The Indian Express.

Bulldozers razed Baidullah's two-storey house on Tuesday. (Express/Sourced)

The district administration of Dibrugarh, in eastern Assam, on Tuesday carried out demolition of the house owned by a man accused of abetting the suicide of an animal rights’ activist and businessman last week. District administration officials called it an illegal structure that violated building norms.

On July 7, Vineet Bagaria, 32, had died by suicide after he had allegedly received threats over a rental property belonging to his family in Dibrugarh’s Shani Mandir Road, according to police.

Following the death, three people — Baidullah Khan, Nishant Sharma and Samsulla Khan — were arrested on Friday for allegedly abetting the suicide and “criminal intimidation”, among others.

On Tuesday morning, bulldozers razed Baidullah’s two-storey house.“It was an illegal structure and they did not have building permission. The building was in a precarious condition…it (also) violated certain norms,” a senior district administration official told The Indian Express.

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A notice was sent to the owners on July 8, the official said. “While investigating Baidullah, police found that his house had been built in violation of norms — we carried out the demolition on this basis.”

The official said Baidullah did not stay in the house; it had been rented out.

Earlier, on Monday, the officer-in-charge of the local police station, Bularam Terong, was transferred after the victim’s family alleged that the police and local administration had not taken any action even after they had made complaints of threat perception. The family said this during a meeting with Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who met them on Sunday.

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Following the meeting, a “hurt and embarrassed” Sarma called it a “total failure” of the district administration. He said: “Is our government this weak? How did a Baidullah Khan manage to get this far? This is just one story. There could be many Baidullahs roaming around in Dibrugarh. Is this Assam, or is it Jammu and Kashmir…. (Is this) Srinagar, or Dhubri or Goalpara?”

Vineet Bagaria. (Express/Sourced)

Dhubri and Goalpara are Muslim majority districts in lower Assam.

On Tuesday, following the demolition, Sarma told the media that police are investigating Baidullah’s antecedents. “We have learnt he was a moneylender. We are looking into his history,” Sarma said. “What happened today is the first installment; more action will follow.”

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According to police, Bagaria was found hanging in his home on July 7. A video was subsequently found in which he had purportedly said that he was compelled to take his own life after receiving threats from the accused.

In 2015, the Bagarias are learnt to have rented out the ground floor of their residence to one Sanjay Sharma to open a shop. The property is in the name of Bagaria’s father, Kailash Bagaria.

After the tenant refused to vacate the premises, the owners moved the court. “The Bagarias won the case, but the tenant persisted. He allegedly threatened them through the accused,” the district official said.

In the video clip, now circulating on social media, Bagaria purportedly said that he was not strong enough to deal with so much stress. “First they were not paying rent, then they started with the threats,” he said. He named Nishant Sharma, Baidullah Khan as allegedly issuing the threats, and said that Sanjay Sharma was the main mastermind.

Dibrugarh SP, Shwetank Mishra, said the tenant (Sanjay Sharma) is absconding.

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On failure of the police and administration to provide them security, Kailash Bagaria told The Indian Express: “I had submitted written complaints to police and handed over recording of phone calls to the DC and SP. On July 1, I sought police protection. But they did not take any steps…that is why I lost my son.”

On Terong’s transfer, Assam Special DGP (Law and Order), G P Singh, said while the local police station had proceeded as per Section 107 of CrPC, it was “possible that the assessment of the local officer in charge was not appropriate”. He should have “maintained vigil and deployed security around the house”, Singh said.

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Asked about the demolition, Singh said it was “between the district administration and the accused”.

Leader of Opposition, Congress’s Debabrata Saikia, hit out at Sarma and said Assam is a picture of “lawlessness” under the NDA. “There were four accused and as per the victim’s family, the mastermind is someone whose surname is Sharma. Then how come the focus is only on the Khan,” he asked.

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“The police should not act in such a biased way. For violation of building law or tax details, there are provisions of fine, etc. The CM’s utterances — like how come a Khan is staying in Assam, it is not Kashmir, etc — are unconstitutional remarks,” Saikia said.

First published on: 12-07-2022 at 07:28:20 pm
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