Sikkim: A ‘missing’ person, an 'angry' FB post, and claims of Police ‘bias’

Gangtok: Is the Sikkim Police only following the orders of those in power and not of ordinary citizens and the opposition parties? This question surfaced in the wake of the arrest of one of the members of the Sikkim Democratic Front party Prakash Gurung, popularly known as Prakash Lee when he was arrested for a Facebook post. Lee’s FB post centred around Bhim Bahadur Mukhia, who challenged Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay, a few days ago, only to go missing after that.

On March 26, Sikkim Truck Drivers Association President Bhim Bahadur Mukhia challenged the Chief Minister for an ‘open debate’.  Mukhia questioned the various reformative promises made by the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha government towards the drivers’ fraternity in the State. The same evening, Mukhia went missing.

On March 28, Mukhia’s wife Sarita filed an FIR, claiming that her husband had gone missing. The missing report was published in local newspapers. This was later used on social media by Prakash Lee to question the person’s whereabouts. Lee also questioned if the Government had a hand in him going missing.

Prakash Lee (left) and Bhim Bahadur Mukhia (right)

In retaliation, the Sikkim Police called Prakash Lee to Sadar Police Station. The Police termed Lee’s actions to present a negative image of the State’ and arrested him. Lee is seen as a ‘habitual offender’, with a history of similarly derogatory social media posts, claimed the police. They highlighted that Lee had as many as seven such cases against his name since 2016. The reaction to Lee’s arrest was led by his sister, the SDF party cadres and social activist Nawin Kiran Pradhan who staged a Dharna on April 1 till the night curfew imposition from 10:30 pm.

To address the two issues, the Sikkim Police, led by DIG Range Prawin Gurung, SP East Siva Prasad Yellasiri held a press conference on April 4. “It appears that Lee made statements over social media without even investigating the matter. By the time he made a post on social media, the FIR by Sarita Mukhia had been dropped as Bhim Bahadur Mukhia had returned home on March 30. Now, Sarita Mukhia ended up admitting that the statement given by her husband should not be taken seriously. She claimed that her husband was mentally unstable and had been under treatment. He was even admitted to the Central Referral Hospital in 2020. His statements were against the government, but following his wife and daughter’s statement, Mukhia was taken to a rehabilitation centre as he had cases of drug consumption like Brown Sugar. Taking the same into account, it was wise to get him to rehabilitation rather than in custody,” stated DIG Range Prawin Gurung.

But after Mukhia returned home, he made another statement outside Sadar Police Station to the media wherein he claimed that his own family had been framing him to be mentally unstable, which he denied. He was called to the Police Station by the police personnel since he was missing and labelled to be mentally unstable. “Undoubtedly, whatever Mukhia has said against the Chief Minister and the government can be termed as anti-establishment. But we cannot frame him in the case as his mental history precedes his statement and that he was taking psychiatric treatment. It is better if he opts for rehabilitation. Furthermore, it was clear from the statements from his own family that they were scared and troubled by the statements given by Mukhia. We did not want to run police proceedings against him nor did we want the media to pursue to harass the family further,” stated the DIG.

Also read: Sikkim and the never-ending woes of Dzongu’s Mantam bridge

The Police were, however, not so sympathetic in the case of Prakash Lee. “There are several cases against Lee on similar grounds, where he has made derogatory remarks.”

“We arrested Prakash Lee on April 1 at Sadar Police Station for his statements. We wanted to extend his custody but the judiciary informed us that he has other cases in his name. Any form of investigation can be carried out without him being brought to the station. When Lee was arrested, there were many SDF functionaries, and even Lee’s family, who protested outside the Police Station. He was booked under 153A and 505 of the IPC. It generated a negative impact against Mukhia and his family, along with the state government and the Chief Minister. But the protest by Lee’s supporters was uncalled for. If Bhim Bahadur Mukhia was missing till now and the police had been unable to find him, it would have created a law and order issue in the state. Hence, Lee’s arrest was justified. What Lee did is a big crime, but he is out on bail as per the judiciary,” stated the DIG, who is the spokesperson of the department.

Elsewhere, Sikkim Police was also questioned by the media on the recent case of police atrocity on Holi in Geyzing, the video of which went viral across social media. DIG stated, “We condemn what was done by the traffic police to civilians. It was not right. There were four traffic police in the act, who felt that the distance of 3-4 km to Tikjuk police station was far. There was a communication gap and delay, which might have prompted them to not arrest civilians as they were traffic police personnel. When we see the drama, it is wrong that he slapped. A civilian arrest can happen even if they are a traffic cop. I have presented the report, and Sikkim Police asks for forgiveness”.

On Sikkim Police aligning with the government, the DIG stated, “We represent the state and administration. The elected government represents the State government. In any state and country, the government policy and direction works as per, constitution and law. We are here for both the government and the opposition.”

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