Guwahati: The “scars” of the mid-day lynching of an enterprising All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leader by a frenzied mob in Jorhat in November last year have not yet eroded from public memory, when another alleged “barbaric assault” on a student leader, only this time, by law enforcers – the antinarcotics squad of Nagaon police – on Saturday surfaced.
Kirti Kamal Bora, an AASU member and former general secretary of Nowgong College, was allegedly assaulted after being shot at point-blank range in the leg while going out to buy medicine for his mother in Kachuakhua in Nagaon district.
Bora is currently undergoing treatment at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital here. GMCH superintendent Abhijit Sarma also informed that student leader has been admitted to the COVID ward after he tested positive for coronavirus.
The incident has sparked state-wide public outrage, with irate students unions and pressure groups hitting the streets while the Opposition and regional parties have demanded a judicial inquiry.
The alleged assault has come at a time when reportedly about 32 people, a majority from the minority community, have been gunned down, and at least 67 injured while allegedly trying to flee from police custody or attacking law enforcers since the second BJP government under Himanta Biswa Sarma took charge in May 2021.
Amid flak from the Opposition parties and other pressure groups over the encounter killings, the chief minister had after a couple months after assuming office, categorically stated in the Assembly that the state police have “full operational liberty” to fight criminals within the ambit of law.
Under pressure to act, this time with an “encounter” involving an AASU leader, the Assam government had on Sunday constituted a one-man inquiry commission led by an additional chief secretary to probe the incident and submit a report within a week.
Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while promising action against anyone guilty, said that “common people in the streets cannot be attacked for no reason even as organised crime and criminals have to be dealt with sternly”.
While the AASU hierarchy has termed the attack as “police raaj”, the Opposition parties alleged that the “state government and the trigger-happy police have resorted to extra-judicial killings (which do not have the consent of law) and that democracy “is in danger”.
“The head of the state, whether it is the Prime Minister or the chief minister, has to act within the ambit of the Constitution. On the contrary, here police have been given a free hand to shoot people. We condemn the Nagaon incident. If such incidents are not nipped in the bud, then very soon we will be heading towards lawlessness,” an AASU leader told EastMojo on Monday.
He further said that problems cannot be solved or crimes curbed only through police encounters.
“Today’s situation reminds us of the unilateral action against people in some countries where dictators had ruled and oppressed the people. The government is acting on its whims and fancies and, at times, going beyond the limits of Constitution and democracy. Apparently, we are witnessing polarisation for which the country or state may have to pay a heavy price,” he added.
Recently, a New Delhi-based advocate hailing from Assam had filed the PIL in Gauhati High Court, seeking an independent inquiry and a separate judicial probe into the alleged encounters by the Assam Police since May this year.
Sections are also relating the encounters to the “secret killings” (the extra-judicial killings of family members of ULFA leaders) in the 1990s.
Demanding a judicial probe into the Nagaon incident, Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) president Lurinjyoti Gogoi said the police have resorted to “open killings”, along the same pattern of the “secret killings” to create an atmosphere of “fear and terror”.
“Such an environment of open killings has to be done away with. I appeal to the people to come together and raise their voices to save democracy,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nowgong College Autonomous Students Union continued its protests against the police “assault” on the college union’s former general secretary, with hundreds hitting the streets and staging a sit-in protest.
The union on Monday decided to halt all kinds of felicitation ceremonies to Nagaon Police and the superintendent of police until a fair investigation in the case was provided.
According to the union, “the statement issued by the Nagaon SP that police acted in self defence is baseless and such an act by armed police officers cannot be accepted”.
“He was shot at point blank range, stamped on his wounds, sprayed alcohol, by police. We want justice,” said a student of Nowgong College demanding that the sub-inspector allegedly responsible for the attack should be immediately arrested.
Several students and youths also staged a protest near the Ambari Rotary here, holding placards and shouting slogans against the incident besides demanding a fair and prompt investigation in the case.
AASU general secretary Shankarjyoti Baruah condemned the incident in no uncertain terms, saying that the increasing trend of such extra-judicial killings of innocent people by the Assam police was not a good sign for a democratic set-up.
“Such incidents only widen the gap between police and public relations. Police have been given a free reign,” Baruah said.
Opposition Congress alleged that “extra-judicial killings have once again surfaced in the state”.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president Bhupen Kumar Borah, while condemning the alleged police action, claimed that the state police have tried to “brand the innocent youth as a drugs mafia” and attacked him for no reason.
Meanwhile, according to reports, the sub-inspector on Monday lodged an FIR against Kirti Kamal Bora. After receiving the police complaint, the officer-in-charge of Nagaon Police Station registered a case under Sections 21(A)/29 NDPS Act.
On the other hand, a counter case was lodged against the SI by the father of Kirti Kamal Bora for allegedly firing at his son.
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