Bodo MLA’s arrest for abetting riots leaves Kokrajhar tense
Pradeep Brahma has been arrested for instigating riots, remanded to judicial custody for 14 days
In a serious turn of events, a powerful MLA from the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF), an ally of the ruling Congress in Assam, Pradeep Brahma was arrested by Assam Police on Wednesday late night on charges of being directly involved in rioting. His name has also surfaced in the seven cases of violence in Kokrajhar and adjoining areas that the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) is investigating. The judge at the district court of Kokrajhar has sent Brahma to 14 days judicial remand, as his party threatened to pull out of the coalition with Congress.
The situation turned tense in the trouble-torn Kokrajhar districts and surrounding areas, as the news of Brahma’s arrest spread with thousands of BPF supporters taking to the streets in protest. Brahma, known in this area as Gara, was arrested from his Dotoma residence near Kokrajhar town at about 1 AM. Seven cases have been registered against him in Kokrajhar Police station. Brahma is the MLA of Kokrajhar (West) constituency. Brahma was remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody even after the police insisted on a seven-day-long remand for interrogation. According to police sources, substantial evidence point towards the MLA’s direct involvement in the ethnic riots that have left 80 dead and nearly 3 lakh homeless.
On Thursday, BPF supporters blocked National Highway 31 and the rail link seeking release of their leader. Several remained stranded as the Kokrajhar district administration has clamped an indefinite curfew. Night curfew also remains in place in the neighbouring Dhubri and Chirang districts. The Army has also been put on standby.
Meanwhile, the arrest of the BPF MLA has brought fissures in the 11-year-long political honeymoon between the Bodo political outfit and the Congress into the open. The lone BPF minister in the Assam cabinet, Transport Minister Chandan Brahma, visited Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to lodge his party’s protest the way Brahma was arrested. Gogoi, however, has said that law will take its own course. “It is not the first time that any MLA is being arrested. In course of investigations anyone can be arrested. Whether he is guilty or not court will decide and even miniters or the chief minister can be arrested,” said Gogoi in Guwahati.
The BPF has also made their displeasure with the Congress known. “The way the police stormed into the residence of an elected public representative makes us feel it can be a political ploy to defame our party and the Bodo people. If the police have anything substantiate against our MLA he can be arrested, but why in such a way? We will now have to think about our relationship with the Congress,” threatened the BPF vice chairperson and former Assam agriculture minister Pramilarani Brahma. The BPF has called for an indefinite Kokrajhar bandh following the arrest sending people into a tizzy about the possibility of renewed violence and rioting.
The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has earlier alleged that many BPF leaders have been involved in riots against the Muslim community. The arrest has not only given Ajmal’s cause a shot in the arm but even the Assam Gana Parishad. “BPF is a partner in the government and their own MLA has been arrested for rioting. It shows how the government has aided the riots. Tarun Gogoi should take moral responsibility and step down,” AGP president and former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta told Tehelka over phone from New Delhi.
Meanwhile, fresh acts of violence broke out in Lower Assam as unidentified men, suspected to be Bodo rebels, fired at Muslim fishermen in Bangaldoba in Chapar area of Dhubri district on Wednesday. While one sustained bullet injuries, one Muslim fisherman’s body was recovered on Thursday morning. Two Muslim youths are said to be missing from the area.
Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.
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