Assam: Prime suspect in AASU leader’s lynching dies mysteriously in custody

Police claim Neeraj Kumar Das died in a road accident while trying to flee while being transported by the police


On Monday, November 29, All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leader Animesh Bhuyan and two of his acquaintances were attacked by a mob in Jorhat in Assam. 28-year-old Bhuyan, who was the education secretary of AASU’s Brahmaputra Anchalik Committee in Golaghat district, died in hospital soon afterwards while being treated for his injuries. On Wednesday, the main accused in his lynching, a man named Neeraj Kumar Das was also killed after been run over by a vehicle, when he allegedly jumped out of the police vehicle transporting him. His family suspects this was an extra-judicial killing.

According to Jorhat Police, “Niraj Das @ Kola Lora jumped off from police car on way to recover concealed NDPS material but was hit by trailing escort car. 03 policemen also got severe injuries and under treatment. Niraj Das was declared brought dead at JMCH.”

According to The Telegraph, the incident took place at 2 A.M in an area that falls under the jurisdiction of the Cinnamara police outpost, which is around 11 kilometers from the Jorhat police station and about 300km northeast of Guwahati. The vehicles were driving along the Mariani road. Das was declared “brought dead” at the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital.

The mob-lynching on Monday

On November 29, Animesh Bhuyan and two others were lynched by a mob after a perceived altercation with a scooterist. According to the police, Bhuyan and the other two people had tried to help the “elderly ad inebriated” scooterist after he fell off his two-wheeler, reported The Telegraph. But the scooterist accused the trio of hitting his vehicle and knocking him over in the first place. This enraged people nearby and they physically assaulted the trio. Among the assailants was 34-year-old fish seller Neeraj Kumar Das, who was the son of the scooterist.

Arrests, protests and court appearances

13 people were arrested the following day and soon police started telling media persons that Neeraj Kumar Das was a “habitual offender” who had several drugs-related cases against him, and that Bhuyan’s vehicle had not hit his father’s scooter. Das was booked under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

Meanwhile, AASU leader Dipanka Nath led a delegation to the Jorhat police demanding a swift trial and compensation for victims. AASU held a demonstration outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office from 10:30 A.M to 1:30 P.M, reported TT.

Interestingly, Das was not among the 12 people presented before the court who were remanded to judicial custody on Tuesday. He was to be presented before a court on Wednesday. Before that the police took him to a spot to reportedly recover a stash of drugs. This was when the accident occurred.

Family suspects foul play

Das’s sister-in-law told Indian Express that the family suspects his death to be a “planned murder”. She asked, “We do not believe what police are saying, that he wanted to flee. Under so much security, how could he?”

AASU demands separate law for mob lynching cases

It is noteworthy that AASU is one of the most influential organisations in Assam given its history of participating in the Assam movement that led to the signing of the Assam Accord. AASU has also been at the forefront of demanding reverification of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). They have also been demanding a separate law to deal with cases of mob-lynching in the state.

Nath was quoted by TT as saying, “Lynching cases have been rising in Assam. We have had at least four-five cases, including the lynchings of Dr Deben Dutta and Debashish Gogoi, in the past couple of years. Before that we had the Jhankar Saikia case in 2013.” Nath gave the example of Bhuyan’s death to demand a separate law saying, “Animesh had tried to help the scooterist. A separate law and speedy trial and sentencing are required to check such incidents.”

The impact of Bhuyan’s death and AASU’s influence was clear when Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma ordered the police to file a chargesheet within a month and that the case would be tried in a fast-track court. Tweeting in Assamese on November 30, CM Sarma said, “We are deeply saddened by the untimely and tragic death of a young man named Animesh Bhuiyan in a tragic incident in Jorhat.” He added, “All those identified as involved in the incident have already been arrested. We are instructing the administration to provide for the punishment of the guilty in the fast-track court. We have directed the Director General of Special Police, Shri GP Singh, to personally supervise the investigation into the incident and submit the chargesheet within a month.”


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