One of the many unflattering popular references to the police is that police are nothing but goondas in uniform. Tamijuddin Laskar took the saying a bit too seriously and chucked his uniform to become a full-fledged bandit.
Arrested this week from Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills, Tamijuddin was not only an extortionist and rogue but also a militant. He also reinforced what is othwerwise an open secret in this part of the world — that there’s only a thin dividing line between militants and dacoits.
When he joined the Assam Police as a constable some 20 years ago, Tamijuddin was considered one of the best. He topped in commando training and was soon promoted to a havaldar. Former police chief of southern Assam’s Karimganj district Pallab Bhattacharjee handpicked him to be his PSO.
After a robbery at Karimganj police armoury in 1994, prime accused Tamijuddin was on the run. Later, he jumped bail to take shelter in Dimapur, where he allegedly developed links with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland.
He was next heard when in Assam’s Barak Valley a slew of murders, highway robberies and ambush on police patrols began to be attributed to Tamijuddin’s group.
Soon Tamijuddin floated the militant outfit National Tiger Force (NTF), apparently to justify extortion drives. But for close to 15 years, he managed to give the security forces the slip.
Last Tuesday, the police arrested Tamijuddin and five others from Khliehriat in Meghalaya, where they had been doubling up as coalmine workers. The police had traced Tamijuddin’s call demanding a hefty sum from a stone crushing firm in Barak Valley. “We caught Abdul Hasib, a small-time thief Tamijuddin had assigned to collect the money. It helped us nab the key members of the gang including the former policeman,” said Cachar district additional SP Pradip Ranjan Kar.
Tamijuddin has denied his involvement in any of the charges and said police was after him for no reason!