Following furore over police shooting at a 22-year-old former student leader in Assam’s Nagaon district on Saturday evening, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday announced a one-man inquiry commission into the incident, headed by the state Additional Chief Secretary. The report is to be submitted within seven days, Sarma said.
“If we find that the police have done any wrong, action will be taken immediately,” he said, addressing a press conference in Guwahati.
On Saturday evening, Kirti Kamal Bora, a former general secretary of Nagaon College, who was earlier a member of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), was injured during an anti-drug operation in Nagaon’s Kachalukhua locality when the police shot at him in “self-defence”. Bora, who has sustained injuries on his left thigh, left arm and forehead, is currently undergoing treatment at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
While the police have alleged that Bora was involved in the drug racket and attacked the policemen, his family said he had been “wrongly framed”.
Acting on a tip-off that drugs were being sold at Nagaon’s Kachalukhua area, the police had arrived at the spot in plainsclothes on Saturday evening. “Two of our men were there to inspect… then people present there got suspicious and started questioning our men, who told them they were policemen. After that, chaos ensued and a brawl began,” said Nagaon SP Anand Mishra, adding that there were three or four people in all. “Two tried to run away, so one policeman began to chase them. In the meanwhile, the other policeman who was left behind was being beaten up by two others present. As per his version, he was compelled to fire to save himself, otherwise he would have been killed.”
Under fire for police action
THE LATEST shooting incident comes at a time when the Himanta Biswa Sarma government has been under fire for increased police action on alleged criminals. Since Sarma became Chief Minister in May last year and adopted a “zero tolerance” policy against crime, at least 60 alleged criminals have been injured and 30 killed in firing incidents, while either purportedly trying to escape police custody or attacking the police. Sarma remains unfazed by criticism that the police have turned “trigger-happy”. He maintains that he had given the police “full operational freedom” to take the “toughest of actions” within the ambit of law to deal with criminals.
Mishra alleged that Bora was among those beating up the policeman and was “involved in the incident”.
“That is why he was hit by the bullet,” the SP said, adding that they recovered eight vials of drugs from the spot, including one from Bora’s person. “We are now trying to ascertain whether he was a consumer or a peddler,” he said.
Bora’s family has rubbished the police version and claimed that he has been “wrongly framed”.
“Around 7.30 pm on Saturday, my mother had sent him to get some medication. Ten minutes later, we heard some commotion near our house… I rushed out and saw my brother was on the road, with 6 or 7 cops around him,” said Bora’ elder brother Koustav.
Speaking to reporters outside the hospital, an injured Bora said while he was out to get medicines for his mother, he saw one person being beaten up near his home. “I was only going to intervene, when I was abused and pulled off the bike and suddenly shot at,” he alleged.
Bora’s brother said the family was in shock. “We never thought the police would do something like that. Encounter action has become a trend in Assam,” he said.
The Opposition accused Chief Minister Sarma of encouraging a “trigger happy” police. “Incidents like these reveal the personality of Assam Police,” said MLA Akhil Gogoi, likening Sarma’s regime to “jungle raj”.
The AASU, too, has condemned the incident. AASU chief advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharjya demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident. The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba-Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and AASU held a huge rally in Nagaon to protest the incident.
Since Sarma took over as Chief Minister, he has emphasised on a “zero tolerance policy” on criminals, giving the police “full operational liberty within the ambit of law” to function.
Since May last year, more than 60 people have been injured and at least 30 killed while purportedly trying to escape police custody.
Reacting to the criticism, Sarma said the Nagaon incident was being investigated and should not be compared to other incidents of police action, where actual drug dealers and criminals have been taken to task. He said those policemen who were involved in Saturday’s incident were now in reserve. “If found guilty, action will definitely be taken,” he said.
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