India’s oldest paramilitary force has allegedly made a rebel soldier undergo a primitive punishment months in a pitch-black dungeon.
According to the Assam Rifles (AR), Md Hyder Ali is a habitual troublemaker. He was dismissed in 1997 for sporting a long beard citing religious reasons but reinstated in 2004 after Delhi High Court quashed the dismissal order. He jolted AR again last year by leading a signature campaign demanding better pay and parity with army personnel.
Over 1,900 soldiers signed his petition to the President seeking to end AR’s dichotomy (AR is a paramilitary force funded by the Ministry of Home Affairs but controlled by officers from the army.)
On March 14 this year, MHA formed a panel to study the soldiers’ grievances, but Ali has been in detention under the Army Act since January 16 for carrying out the campaign ‘improperly’.
The confinement, Ali said in a letter to the commandant of 19AR, has been inhuman. “I am being treated like an animal and held captive in a 7ftx6ft room with no bed or light, which turns into a ‘kaalkothri’ after sunset,” Ali wrote, adding he has also been denied medical check up.
If that were not enough, the AR allegedly refused to allow Ali’s wife Shahar Bano, two children and brother Akhtar to meet him at Minuthong in Manipur, where the “rebel” is being held captive in the 1AR base. “AR officials ignored a June 19 order by the Gauhati High Court in this regard,” said Bano.
Imphal-based AR spokesman Lt Col LM Pant refuted Bano’s claim. “We gave full opportunity to Bano and her children to meet Rifleman Ali on September 19,” Lt Col Pant said. Another officer Lt Col GS Gill said: “We have photographic evidence of the meeting.”
“How can the meeting be private if it was photographed?” asked Jha, adding that the HC admitted his plea against AR for contempt of June 19 order. The court subsequently issued a show-cause notice to four AR officials.