In Assam, 4 deaths in police shooting registered since January
Assam’s State Police Accountability Commission chairperson justice BP Katakey (retd) said last Thursday that the commission has registered complaints on the killings of two men,
SILCHAR: At least four deaths in police shootings have been registered in Assam since the Gauhati high court disposed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on January 27 seeking an independent inquiry into alleged extra-judicial killings in the state since May, 2021.
Human rights organisations in the state said the rising number of such cases is alarming, and the State Police Accountability Commission (SPAC), Assam has registered suo moto complaints to investigate two of these deaths. On Monday, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma ordered a CID enquiry into another death following confusion over identity of the deceased.
The recent killings happened between February 9 and 24. According to the police, one of the people killed was a suspected leader of the proscribed outfit United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I). The other three were criminals who either tried to escape or attacked the police. Some police personnel also sustained injuries in these incidents, the police added. (ALSO READ: Senior ULFA-I leader surrenders in Assam: Police)
The chairperson of SPAC, BP Katakey, who is a retired justice of Gauhati HC, said last Thursday that the commission has registered complaints on the killings of two of the men, Shah Alam Talukdar and Santosh Jaiswal.
Katakey said that the commission has asked the Commissioner of Guwahati Police, Diganta Barah to submit a report on the first and the superintendent of police of Dibrugarh district on the second.
Barah said that they are submitting the report as directed by the commission. “We follow the instructions of SPAC and the report will be submitted soon,” he told HT.
The first killing after the HC’s disposal of the PIL took place on February 9 at around 1:30am in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district. ULFA-I leader Uttam Lahon (Uday Asom) sustained severe injuries in an exchange of fire between police and the militant group. The suspected militant died in a government hospital, according to the police.
Police said that 8 to 10 militants of ULFA-I group opened fire on police and except Uday Asom, the others managed to escape. Uday Asom was declared dead when he was taken to hospital.
ULFA-I later released a statement and said that they are proud of Uday Asom because he preferred death to surrender.
Around 2:43 am on that day, the Director General of Assam Police, GP Singh wrote in a tweet, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”
On February 18, 37-year-old Shah Alom Talukdar, who was accused of a murder, was killed in Guwahati. He was arrested on February 4 and a week later, tried to commit suicide inside the jail, according to the police. On February 16 he escaped from police custody and a day later, he was found dead near the Assam-Meghalaya border. The police claim that during the escape, Talukdar opened fire on them and sustained two bullet injuries
He was the prime accused in a murder that took place on the streets of Guwahati in November last year. Talukdar allegedly shot dead a 58-year-old businessman Ranjit Bora. There were multiple cases against him in different parts of Assam, according to the police.
Within 24 hours of Talukdar’s death, another suspected criminal, Santosh Jaiswal was shot multiple times by Dibrugarh police. Dibrugarh superintendent of police Shwetank Mishra said car lifter Santosh Jaiswal was shot at when he opened fire on the police team.
On February 24, a suspected arms smuggler, Kenaram Basumutary was shot multiple times by the police in Udalguri district of Assam. Police said that he was a former member of Boroland-based separatist group National Democratic Front (NDFB) and that multiple cases are registered against him Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
Superintendent of police of Udalguri, Supriya Das, said that Basumutary used a false identity and he used to travel in various parts of northeast to smuggle foreign-made arms.
“He was arrested multiple times in other states in the past. In Assam also there were cases against him. On Friday morning, when our team attempted to catch him, he opened fire. In return police also fired some rounds and recovered the injured body of Basumutary,” she said.
Das said that in this process, two policemen also sustained bullet injuries.
But Basumutary’s dead body was exhumed on Monday for DNA testing after a woman claimed that police killed her husband Dimbeshwar Muchahary instead of Basumutary.
Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday asked the Director General of Police GP Singh to initiate a CID inquiry to ascertain details of the incident.
Delhi-based advocate from Assam, Arif Jwadder in December 2021 filed a PIL against Assam Police alleging that many of the deaths and injuries in police shootings since a new BJP-led government took charge in May, 2021, were fake. After 18 hearings, the court disposed of the PIL and said it could not issue a general direction on the petition.
Advocate Jwadder demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the killings.
“In 171 incidents, 56 people died including 4 custodial deaths and 145 were injured from May 2021 to August 2022. However, prima facie, that no separate FIRs were registered (in these cases), which is a basic requirement as per the Supreme Court,” he said.
Assam’s parliamentary affairs minister Pijush Hazarika in the state assembly on December 23, last year, said that there were no police encounters in the state since 2019.
He was responding on behalf of chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. In a written response, Sarma said that 26 incidents of terrorists and criminals clashing with police were reported over the last two years, which left 30 people dead and 12 injured.
In June last year, the state government submitted an affidavit in the Gauhati high court, responding to advocate Jwadder’s plea. In the affidavit, the government revealed that 51 people died and 139 others sustained injuries in police action between May 2021 and May 2022.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau data, two civilians died in Assam in 2021, one in 2020, and five in 2019 in police operations. The data for 2021 showed that 65 persons escaped from police custody last year. One person died while escaping and another in a road accident.