The terrifying images from Assam’s eviction drive that escalated into brute action by the Assam Police who opened fire upon innocent civilians on September 23, 2021 in Dhalpur, must continue to haunt many. Hundreds of families were rendered homeless amidst a punishing monsoon and a raging Covid-19 pandemic with just a few hours’ notice sent over Whatsapp the previous midnight. When they protested, the response was bullets!
Since then, there has been an increase in incidents of injustice, both hate crimes and institutional violence, against the Bengali speaking Muslim minority in the north eastern state. Therefore, it has become even more pertinent to raise our voices to ensure that the impunity of any officer, who may have acted illegally and in bad faith, does not go un-punished in accordance with the law.
In CJP’s endeavour to bring justice to those rendered homeless in Assam during the eviction and to those who lost their family members to the police firing and brute action, we have filed two separate writ petitions in the Gauhati High Court:
- one in the matter of the death of 12 year old Sheikh Farid who fell victim to indiscriminate police firing at the eviction site, and,
- another in the incident where a farmer, Maynal Haque, whose house was being forcefully demolished, was shot down by the police.
One of the most gut-wrenching images from the September 23 police firing on evicted families in Assam, was that of an unconscious Farid. He had gone to the post office to collect his friend’s Aadhaar card, never to return. Also, in a video that was doing the rounds on social media showed extremely disturbing visuals of an agitated Haque running in self-defense with a stick, and being beaten up by a handful police officials and after he was visibly lifeless. In fact, thereafter, a photographer, covering the incident started stomping over the defenseless body.
The High Court has issued notice to the state government of Assam on the first petition (Sheikh Farid) October 25 and on the writ petition of the second victim (Maynal Haque) on November 1. The next hearing for both is scheduled for December 1.
In both petitions, the family members of the victims are the petitioners, hoping that some justice is delivered to them. While Farid’s family lost a young child, Haque’s family lost the breadwinner leaving his not only three young children without a father, and a grieving widow, but also elderly parents.
Petition for Sheikh Farid
Sheikh Farid, a resident of Kirakara village of the Dhalpur region, would not have “lost his life at the tender age of 12 had the police force handled the situation professionally and with due diligence and care. The area where the incident took place is a busy area and resident of the petitioners’ village have to travel through the said area to reach their part of village. As such the police force ought to have been better equipped and prepared to deal with any situation to cope with the situation to avoid any loss of human lives,” the petition states.
The petition asserts that Farid’s death was “caused by an act of use of force in excess of what was required inasmuch as assuming but not admitting that there was some mob violence the indiscriminate use of firearms when the area is a busy one, where women and children also reside and pass by ought to have been avoided.”
The petition seeks compensation for the family of Farid who came to know of his death in a video that was circulating on social media and disturbing images of his blood-soaked body doing the rounds.
Petition for Maynal Haque
Maynal Haque and his family had been residing in No 3 Dhalpur village since more than four decades after their previous home was washed away due to erosion of River Brahmaputra. Haque who died in the police firing was a farmer and has left behind his wife and three minor children.
In the wee hours of September 23, Haque and his family were made aware that some residents of the village were served eviction notices, while he had not received any. By 10 A.M that day, people from the District Administration along with a large force of police personnel came to the village asking residents to vacate their homes. At this point all residents gathered peacefully requesting the authorities to give them some time and to rehabilitate them. Naturally, at the thought of being left homeless, they were anxious and the officials did not grant them enough time to collect their belongings and instead started demolishing the houses forcefully. In this tense environment, the police used tear gas shells on the residents and started firing in the air.
Haque was shot as he took up a stick to defend himself against the police and even thereafter, his lifeless body was assaulted by the police, and a photographer, covering the incident, mercilessly stomped over Haque’s body.
The petition points out that the police were not accompanied with any water cannons or any other restrained measures of crown control. The police had other means to overpower a person like Haque who was merely yielding a stick, much less a bullet on chest of the victim. The petition highlights that Haque’s killing is not only an instance of excessive use of force but in fact is an act of police brutality and cold-blooded murder in broad day light.
The petition underscores that the law is settled, that even trespassers cannot be evicted from any land without following the due process of law, which was, however, violated by use of brute force of the state police machinery in a period when people are beleaguered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both petitions point out that as per section 129 of the Code of Criminal procedure (CrPC) the police are to use civil force to disperse an assembly and under section 130, it is stipulated that “a police officer while seeking to disperse any assembly shall use as little force, and do as little injury to person and property, as may be consistent with dispersing the assembly and arresting and detaining such persons.”
Further, even under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 99, a public servant cannot act in defence unless there is apprehension of death or grievous hurt. The petition also points out various provisions of the Assam Police Manual which prescribes how to deal with assemblies and when can firearms be used.
Also, international conventions such as Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials states that firearms should be used only in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.
Finally, in both cases, right to life under Article 21 of both the victims was violated and the deaths were caused in clear violation of the accepted norms and standard under the various laws and also the norms accepted under the international standards.
The two complete petitions may be read here:
The court orders may be read here:
Assam Police Firing: 12-year-old shot dead while returning home from Aadhaar centre!
Photo Feature: Evicted villagers struggle to rebuild lives in Dhalpur
Finally, FIRs filed in Dhalpur firing death cases