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Assam: Police station burnt down after fish-seller's alleged custodial death, bulldozers flatten attacker's homes

What began as an alleged demand for a bribe, led to alleged murder, mayhem and a demolition drive 

Sabrangindia 24 May 2022

Assam
Image: PTI

An allegedly arbitrary arrest of a Muslim man in Assam sparked violence in Nagaon district. Most recently, homes of at least three persons were demolished by bulldozers after they were accused of being part of a mob that burnt down a local police station.

According to India Today, fish-seller Safiqul Islam was on his way to Sivasagar district on the night of May 20, 2022, when the Batadrava police stopped him and allegedly demanded a bribe of ₹ 10,000 and a duck from him. They took him to the hospital and demanded that same from his family members. However, his wife was unable to produce the money. The police then allegedly assaulted Islam in front of his wife. She rushed to arrange for the money but was informed later that Islam was admitted to the district civil hospital. But when she reached the hospital with other members of the family, they only found Shafikul's body in the morgue.

Accusing the police of custodial murder, the family took his body to the police station and started protesting. Viral videos show the family eventually setting the place on fire. According to India Today, two policemen were injured in the incident. By Monday, 21 people were arrested for arson. The Telegraph reported that a special Investigation Team (SIT) will soon be constituted to inquire into the fire while another probe will investigate the allegations of custodial death.

Yet, on the same day, the district administration launched an eviction drive against encroachers in Salnabori village – where same people live who allegedly set the police station on fire. A senior police officer claimed the huts were demolished as part of an anti-encroachment drive. Assam’s Special DGP (Law and Order) GP Singh told NDTV that the dwellers had used forged documents to live on encroached land. He indirectly confirmed that the bulldozers were sent as a retaliatory measure, telling the Indian Express, "We have ordered an independent probe into the alleged custodial death, and if any officer is found guilty, we will take strong action. But such an allegation does not mean you set fire to a police station. You don’t target the police and expect nothing to happen."

The sudden demolitions of Muslim-minority areas has become a worrying trend in India, especially given how they were used as a retaliatory measure. After the Khargone demolition that occurred after Ram Navami violence, such sudden evictions were reported in the national capital Delhi as well. Before Nagaon, there was an attempt to demolish structures in Shaheen Bagh, known for the anti-CAA protests in 2019. Needless to say there was outrage with civil society groups and activists pointing out the pattern, accusing the Assam police of using the anti-encroachment drive as retaliation.

Perhaps forced to play on the backfoot now, Assam's Director General of Police (DGP) Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta then accused Islam of public drinking in a social media post. Mahanta wrote that the man was lying on a public road before he was brought in. He also refuted claims of beating and murder and said that Islam died due to “sickness”.

At the same time, he said that the officer in-charge during the incident has been removed from the police station. As for the arson, he accused the state police chief and said the preparedness of the mob to set fire implied an organised attack by trained outfits. He promised strict action on those who tried to “escape Indian justice system by burning down Police Stations”.

 

Related:

Ubriddled hate and Islamophobia on display at RSS event

Doloo estate trade union leader detained!

Another FIR against Prateek Hajela, this time by Hitesh Dev Sarma

Hate Watch: Bajarang Dal claims Trishul a religious symbol not a weapon

Assam: Police station burnt down after fish-seller's alleged custodial death, bulldozers flatten attacker's homes

What began as an alleged demand for a bribe, led to alleged murder, mayhem and a demolition drive 

Assam
Image: PTI

An allegedly arbitrary arrest of a Muslim man in Assam sparked violence in Nagaon district. Most recently, homes of at least three persons were demolished by bulldozers after they were accused of being part of a mob that burnt down a local police station.

According to India Today, fish-seller Safiqul Islam was on his way to Sivasagar district on the night of May 20, 2022, when the Batadrava police stopped him and allegedly demanded a bribe of ₹ 10,000 and a duck from him. They took him to the hospital and demanded that same from his family members. However, his wife was unable to produce the money. The police then allegedly assaulted Islam in front of his wife. She rushed to arrange for the money but was informed later that Islam was admitted to the district civil hospital. But when she reached the hospital with other members of the family, they only found Shafikul's body in the morgue.

Accusing the police of custodial murder, the family took his body to the police station and started protesting. Viral videos show the family eventually setting the place on fire. According to India Today, two policemen were injured in the incident. By Monday, 21 people were arrested for arson. The Telegraph reported that a special Investigation Team (SIT) will soon be constituted to inquire into the fire while another probe will investigate the allegations of custodial death.

Yet, on the same day, the district administration launched an eviction drive against encroachers in Salnabori village – where same people live who allegedly set the police station on fire. A senior police officer claimed the huts were demolished as part of an anti-encroachment drive. Assam’s Special DGP (Law and Order) GP Singh told NDTV that the dwellers had used forged documents to live on encroached land. He indirectly confirmed that the bulldozers were sent as a retaliatory measure, telling the Indian Express, "We have ordered an independent probe into the alleged custodial death, and if any officer is found guilty, we will take strong action. But such an allegation does not mean you set fire to a police station. You don’t target the police and expect nothing to happen."

The sudden demolitions of Muslim-minority areas has become a worrying trend in India, especially given how they were used as a retaliatory measure. After the Khargone demolition that occurred after Ram Navami violence, such sudden evictions were reported in the national capital Delhi as well. Before Nagaon, there was an attempt to demolish structures in Shaheen Bagh, known for the anti-CAA protests in 2019. Needless to say there was outrage with civil society groups and activists pointing out the pattern, accusing the Assam police of using the anti-encroachment drive as retaliation.

Perhaps forced to play on the backfoot now, Assam's Director General of Police (DGP) Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta then accused Islam of public drinking in a social media post. Mahanta wrote that the man was lying on a public road before he was brought in. He also refuted claims of beating and murder and said that Islam died due to “sickness”.

At the same time, he said that the officer in-charge during the incident has been removed from the police station. As for the arson, he accused the state police chief and said the preparedness of the mob to set fire implied an organised attack by trained outfits. He promised strict action on those who tried to “escape Indian justice system by burning down Police Stations”.

 

Related:

Ubriddled hate and Islamophobia on display at RSS event

Doloo estate trade union leader detained!

Another FIR against Prateek Hajela, this time by Hitesh Dev Sarma

Hate Watch: Bajarang Dal claims Trishul a religious symbol not a weapon

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