Following uproar over the police shooting at a 22-year-old former student leader in Assam’s Nagaon district on Saturday night, Assam Prime Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday announced a one-man commission of inquiry into the incident, to be headed by the Additional Secretary of State will. The report is expected to be submitted within seven days, Sarma said.
“If we find that the police have done something wrong, immediate action will be taken,” he told a news conference in Guwahati.
On Saturday night, Kirti Kamal Bora, a former general secretary of Nagaon College who was formerly a member of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), was injured when police shot at him during an anti-drug operation in Nagaon’s Kachalukhua neighborhood “self-defense ”. Bora, who has sustained injuries to his left thigh, left arm and forehead, is currently being treated at Gauhati Medical college and hospital.
While police claim Bora was involved in drug dealing and assaulted the cops, his family said he was “misframed.”
Under fire for police action
THE LATEST shooting comes at a time when the government of Himanta Biswa Sarma has come under fire over increased police action against suspected criminals. Since Sarma became prime minister in May last year and instituted a “zero tolerance” policy on crime, at least 60 suspected criminals have been shot and killed and 30 allegedly either trying to escape police custody or attacking the police . Sarma remains unperturbed by the criticism that the police have become “trigger-happy”. He claims he has given the police “full discretion” to take the “strongest action” within the law against criminals.
Plainclothes police arrived on Saturday night following a tip-off that drugs were being sold in the Nagaon area of Kachalukhua. “Two of our men were there to inspect them… then those present became suspicious and began questioning our men, who told them they were police officers. After that, chaos and a brawl ensued,” said Nagaon SP Anand Mishra, adding that there were three or four people in total. “Two tried to run away, so a police officer started chasing them. Meanwhile, the other policeman left behind was beaten up by two other bystanders. According to his version, he was forced to shoot to save himself or he would have been killed.”
Mishra claimed that Bora was among those who beat up the police officer and was “involved in the incident”.
“That’s why he got hit by the bullet,” the SP said, adding that they recovered eight vials of drugs from the spot, including one from Bora’s body. “We are now trying to determine whether he was a consumer or a peddler,” he said.
Bora’s family have dismissed the police version, claiming he was “misframed”.
“On Saturday around 7:30 p.m., my mother had sent him to get medicine. Ten minutes later we heard a commotion near our house… I ran out and saw that my brother was walking down the street with 6 or 7 police officers,” said Bora’s older brother Koustav.
Speaking to reporters outside the hospital, an injured Bora said while he was out collecting medicine for his mother, he saw a person being beaten near his home. “I didn’t want to intervene until I was abused and pulled off my bike and suddenly shot at,” he claimed.
Bora’s brother said the family was in shock. “We never thought the police would do something like this. Face-to-face actions have become a trend in Assam,” he said.
The opposition accused Prime Minister Sarma of promoting a “trigger-friendly” police force. “Incidents like these reveal the personality of the Assam police force,” said MLA Akhil Gogoi, comparing Sarma’s regime to “jungle Raj”.
The AASU also condemned the incident. AASU chief adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharjya called for a judicial investigation into the incident. The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba-Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and AASU held a large rally in Nagaon to protest the incident.
Since assuming the post of prime minister, Sarma has emphasized a “zero tolerance policy” towards criminals, giving the police “full operational freedom within the law” to function.
Since May last year, more than 60 people have been injured and at least 30 killed while allegedly trying to escape from police custody.
Responding to the criticism, Sarma said the Nagaon incident is being investigated and should not be compared to other incidents of police action in which actual drug dealers and criminals have been held accountable. He said the police officers involved in Saturday’s incident are now on reserve. “In the event of a guilty verdict, action will definitely be taken,” he said.