In what could be seen as some relief to the families of victims of the police firing that took place on September 23 at Gorukhuti village that falls under the Sipajhar Circle of Dhalpur in the Darrang district of Assam, police have now filed First Information Reports (FIRs) in the cases of Mainul Haque and Sheikh Farid.
The FIRs have been registered under Sections 302 (murder) and 34 (criminal act done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention), based on complaints filed by Mainul Haque’s brother Ainuddin, and Sheikh Farid’s brother Amir Ali.
What is shocking is that the FIRs were filed a fortnight after the actual attack. They were killed on September 23 after personnel of the Assam Police opened fire on Gorukhuti villagers who were protesting their forced eviction and trying to protect whatever limited belongings they had managed to salvage before their huts were demolished. But what was truly shocking was that Sheikh Farid was only 12-years-old and wasn’t even protesting; he was walking back from an Aadhaar centre nearby when police shot him dead.
The evictions, that have full backing of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has openly supported the district administration and commended their efforts at conducting the evictions that have been taking place over the last few months, amidst not only a heavy monsoon in the flood-prone riverine region, but also during a raging Covid-19 pandemic. All evicted families have been left to the mercy of the elements. Meanwhile, Sushanta Biswa Sarma, the Superintendent of Police of Darrang, the district where the incident took place, is the Chief Minister’s brother. Several political parties as well as civil society and human rights groups have been demanding that both brothers either resign or be removed from their posts.
It is therefore, noteworthy, that it was the sustained campaign for justice by all these groups including CJP that led to the FIRs being filed in the matters of Mainul Haque and Sheikh Farid’s cases. Some pressure was also built after the Gauhati High Court demanded answers from the state government.
On Thursday, the Gauhati HC directed the Assam government to file a detailed affidavit on the events of September 23. This was in connection with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Congress leader Debabrata Saikia who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly. A bench comprising Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Soumitra Saikia asked the state government to file the affidavit within three weeks. The court was deeply disturbed by how there was blood spilled and observed “Zameen par khoon gira (blood was spilled on the soil).”
Senior counsel Chander Uday Singh, who was representing Saikia, argued that the videos of the death of Mainul Haque made it clear that he had already been subdued by the Assam Police but he was still shot at when he was on the ground. The case will be heard next on November 3.