Assam Rifles under fire for killing an innocent bamboo cutter
BY RATNADIP CHOUDHURY
NEW DELHI tends to err on the side of quashing the insurgency in the Northeast with an iron hand. Armed with a draconian law in the form of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the security forces, at times, have committed gross human rights violations in the name of counter-insurgency. It has always been the poor and the innocent who were caught in the crossfire.
A TEHELKA exposé of the 23 July 2009 fake encounter of Chongkham Sanjit by Manipur Police commandos had shocked the world. For the first time, there was evidence. Now, a police report raises the suspicion that Assam Rifles killed an innocent 17-year-old tribal boy.
On 23-24 July 2010, local media reported that the Assam Rifles had killed a hardcore Reang militant in Gutguti village in Assam’s Hailakandi district. The suspected militant was identified as Jatan Kumar Reang. Reports also stated that three other tribal militants were nabbed with firearms.
After the locals raised a hue and cry, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) lodged a complaint with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which asked the Assam Police for a report. Seven months later, TEHELKA has accessed the probe report of the Assam Police, the postmortem report, a report sent to the NCPCR and other classified government documents that paint a different picture.
On 8 September 2010, the police sent a report to the NCPCR, a copy of which is available with TEHELKA. The report is based on the probes of two cases lodged in Katlicherra police station (148/2010 U/S 35 Arms Act and 149/2010 U/S 302 IPC).
Details in the report give legitimacy to Koya Ram Reang’s complaint that his son Jatan was killed in cold blood. He had lodged an FIR in Katlicherra police station.
The report says, “At around 3.30 am on 22/07/2010, a person identifying himself as the commanding officer (CO) of 14, Assam Rifles, called me up stating that his party had come to Gutguti and someone has sustained a bullet injury and requested help. The CO was asked as to why he failed to inform any of the security agencies/civil administration/ district police about the arrival of his force in the area. He had no satisfactory reply. The officer in-charge of Katlicherra police station was directed to render necessary help. But till 11 am, when neither the Assam Rifles reported or communicated anything, the police contingent was sent to the spot.
“On the night of 21/07/2010, a group of 14, Assam Rifles, camp Kanchanpur, Tripura, under the leadership of Lt Col V Gaik-wad, six JCOs and 73 jawans, entered Gutguti in search of undesirable elements.
Around 7 pm, four bamboo cutters — Jatan Reang, 17, Muktajoy Reang, 20, Adyaram Reang, 30, and Biro Singha Reang, 26, all residents of West Gutguti village — were returning home from Gharmurah after receiving payment from Tuta Mia, a bamboo merchant. Around 10.30 pm, the boys were intercepted by the troopers. They caught three of the boys while a jawan fired at Jatan and injured his right thigh.”
“The Assam Rifles asked the boys if there was a doctor in the village. They replied that only a quack was available and he was brought to the spot. The quack gave an injection to Jatan. Later, the troopers took the injured Jatan and the other boys to Agrem in Mizoram on foot. From Agrem they started for Damcherra but Jatan succumbed to his injuries around 3 am on 22/07/2010.
The report indicates this is perhaps an open-and-shut case of extra-judicial killing
“The troopers returned to Agrem and left the place at 6 pm via Damcherra and arrived at Katlicherra police station around 7 am on 23/07/2010 and handed over the body. They also handed over the others and deposited two country-made guns that were ‘recovered from them’ during the search operation.”
The report says Assam Rifles didn’t have a satisfactory reply to their queries and indicates that perhaps this is an open-and-shut case of extra-judicial killing.
THE ASSAM Rifles had filed a complaint at the same police station under the Arms Act, filed by Subedar Hoshiar Singh of 14, Assam Rifles. But the police report at no point says that the four boys were carrying firearms. Police sources said that probes in both cases are on and a chargesheet is yet to be filed.
“The Reang boys had no criminal record and there was no mention in any intelligence report that they had links with militant groups,” says an Assam Police officer.
“The battalion calls themselves The Fighting 14, but in reality they must be called The Faking 14. They are experts in staging fake surrenders and have been involved in many fake encounters. We do have information regarding their involvement in some extra-judicial killings,” says a senior special branch sleuth from the Tripura Police.
In this case, the police and the NCPCR had to act because of the ACHR’s constant pressure, but many cases go unreported. “Since the FIR has been filed, it would mean that they had to submit the report to court. We wanted NCPCR to follow the proceedings in the court,” says ACHR director Suhas Chakma. “Our fight against extra-judicial killings is far from over.”
NCPCR sources have informed that it is waiting for action from the state police and would take up the matter with the home ministry.