Internal CRPF Report Calls Recent Encounter in Assam 'Staged'

The report, written by an inspector general, substantiates doubts that several locals and student bodies had held over encounter killings in Assam.

New Delhi: An encounter that was jointly conducted by the Assam police, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal in Assam’s Chirang district on March 30, was termed as a “staged” one as per an internal report sent to the CRPF headquarters in New Delhi.

The internal report was written by inspector general Rajnish Rai, who was posted in Assam. He was recently transferred to Meghalaya. The report substantiates doubts that were expressed by locals, student leaders and sections of the media, on a trail of “encounters” conducted by security forces in the Bodo Territorial Autonomous Council (BTAD) area.

In August 2016, following a brutal attack in a market in Balajan, near Kokrajhar, where 13 civilians were killed and 19 others were injured, many locals expressed such a doubt. In that “encounter”, a man was shot dead by security forces, who was later identified as Monjoy Islary Mwdan, “a militant of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) [NDFB(S)]” by the state finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Bodo People’s Front chief Hangrama Mohiliary and some officials of Assam police.

While NDFB(S) later issued a press note saying it “retired Mwdan” two months ago, his parents said their son was taken into custody some days ago by the police. Some eye witnesses had also told local reporters that they were not sure that the person who was gunned down by security forces was the one involved in the attack.

Dated April 17, 2017, the report on the Chirang incident said the two men killed in the “encounter”, Lucas Narzary alias N. Langfa and David Islary alias Dayud, were picked up from a house in D-Kalling village and killed in cold blood in Simlaguri village under the district’s Amguri police station. The media referred to them as “hardcore insurgents” of NDFB (S), quoting police sources.

Rai, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer presently posted in Shillong as the inspector general, North East Sector, cited statements from witnesses who identified the bodies of the two slain men from their photographs, without naming them for their safety. He added that the witnesses are in safe custody.

After the “encounter” on March 30, Assam police spokesperson Rajib Saikia was quoted by PTI as saying, “The police team noticed a group of insurgents there at around 4.45 am and on being challenged, they fired on the security team. The policemen retaliated the fire. Later, when the firing stopped, two persons were found injured. The two were taken to hospital where the doctors declared them brought dead.”

Saikia said one Insas Rifle with ten rounds of ammunition, one 7.65 revolver with three rounds of ammunition and one Chinese grenade were found from the spot.

Rai’s report, published in the Indian Express on May 24, said “discreet” enquiries by senior officers found that the weapons were planted on their bodies. It said GPS records showed that a CRPF unit of CoBRA visited the encounter spot in Simalguri a few hours before the encounter. He expressed “suspicion” that the team was trying to identify a location for the “encounter”.

The media report said Rai’s report “suggests that a team [of Assam police and army] picked up the NDFB(S) cadres from D-Kalling village and then met another team at Ouguri. It was then that the decision to kill the duo was taken.”

Rai further said in his report, “Had this unlawful act been committed by a group of a few deviant officers, I would not have been concerned. However, since multiple security agencies were involved in this incident, it indicates a deeper institutional malady in the functioning of the country’s most prestigious security forces. It represents a dangerous deterioration and degradation of institutional processes.”

Copies of the report have been sent to Assam director general of police Mukesh Sahay and state chief secretary V.K. Pipersenia besides some high officials of the CRPF.

The media report quoted Sahay as saying that an IG of the Assam police and a magistrate were conducting an inquiry into the matter following Rai’s report. Many attempts by The Wire to reach Sahay to get more details on the progress of the inquiry failed to get a response.

ABSU preident Pramod Boro. Credit: Special arrangement.

Meanwhile, speaking to The Wire about the CRPF inspector general’s report, All Assam Bodo Students Union (AABSU) president Pramod Boro said, “We condemn such a conduct of the security forces and demand immediate action to punish those personnel involved in the fake encounter. People living in the BTAD areas want to trust the police and the army, they want to cooperate with them but such dishonesty takes away people from the security forces. Such incidents are increasingly happening not just in the Bodo areas but in many parts of the country, which is dangerous.”

Pramod pointed out, “After the series of militants attacks in December 2014 on adivasis (78 civilians were killed then) in Kokrajhar, Chirang and Sonitpur districts, then DGP Khagen Sarma said that there are about 100 to 125 NDFB (S) cadres and Assam police will be able to control the situation soon. However, since then, over 300 people have been killed. I ask, who are the rest of the 175 to 200 people then that the security forces have killed in the Bodo areas?”

Pramod stated, “So far, there is no official statement from the Assam police or the central forces as to how many of those killed in the BTAD areas were militants and how many civilians.”

Importantly, he pointed out, “There is also no official statement on what is the quantity of weapons and ammunition that the security forces have so far recovered from the slain militants, where have they been kept and who has access to them. We demand that it should be made public.”