Arif Jwadder, a lawyer from Assam has moved the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seeking an inquiry into all extrajudicial killings that have taken place in the state since May.
“Assam police is on (an) encounter spree! Since the new government took office in the state there have been fake encounters wherein alleged small-time criminals are being shot and the reason cited for such encounters are that the alleged criminals tried to flee from the police custody (by) snatching pistols,” read the email compliant by Arif to the commission’s chairperson.
Arif requested the human rights panel take cognisance of the matter and institute an inquiry against all such “fake encounters” which have taken place since May 2021.
In his compliant, he has cited 10 cases and that the “people at the receiving end” were mostly “alleged drug dealers, alleged cattle dealers”.
“It also raises questions about the standard operating procedures (SOP) followed by the police while dealing with accused. The police should have become more alert after four-five such incidents but there have been more than 20 incidents, two taking place in the past 24 hours. It cannot be believed that all alleged petty criminals could snatch a pistol from a trained police officer whose pistols/guns are normally tied to a rope to the waist belt of that officer,” The Telegraph quoted Arif as saying.
The Telegraph also reported that though the fate of Arif’s prayer is awaited, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports on the police firing leading to the death of 12 accused and injury to five persons since May and directed the principal secretary (home and political) to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the firing and submit a report within a month.
Arif also has referred to Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s controversial remark at a conference of officers-in-charge of all police stations in the state “that police should shoot at alleged criminals in the legs, which is permitted by law.” “There is criticism of policemen shooting accused/criminals who tried to flee or harm others in the recent past. Law allows to shoot them in the leg. If this is the pattern, let it remain so to send the right message,” Sarma had said. CM’s statement was condemned by the Opposition, including the Congress and the Raijor Dal.
Leader of the Opposition and senior Congress politician Debabrata Saikia, while condemning the police actions, said the chief minister wants to turn Assam police into “trigger- happy cops” which is against the Constitution as the “right to live” is guaranteed under Article 21.
“These are signs of our state moving towards a dictatorial regime. This has sparked concern… Today they are firing at an accused but what is the guarantee they will not fire at political opponents in future? This should be stopped,” said Raijor Dal president Akhil Gogoi.
With inputs from Atika Sayeed