Assam Police Extort a Victim of Domestic Violence and Harass Activists
Waliullah Ahmed Laskar
Assam police in India extorted a victim of domestic violence and harassed her mother and other two social activists for bribes. Instead of investigating the complaints filed by the victim police in the Silchar Sadar Police Station (PS) in the district of Cachar, Assam, threatened and harassed them while shielding the accused.
According to information received from the victims, the Officer-in Charge (OC) of the Silchar Police Station Mr. S K Chauhan and Sub Inspector (SI) of police Mr. Narayan Tamuli forced Sharmista Das, daughter of Late Rishikesh Dutta, resident of Narsing Road, Shibam Apartment Ground, Ambicapatty, Silchar, Cachar, Assam, and her mother Sima Dutta to pay them Indian rupees 30,100.00 (thirty thousand and one hundred) and attempted to get another Rs. 50,000.00 (fifty thousand) by virtual detention and threat of dire consequences between 3 November, 2009 and 2 March, 2010.
Sharmista Das was married to Mr. Rananjay Das alias Rupam Das, S/o Sri Rupendra Mohan Das alias Ratul Das, resident of Sri Sumit Endow, Moulavi Road, Ambicapatty, under Silchar police station in Cachar, on 22 January, 2003 under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. According to her, her husband and in-laws were not satisfied with her as she did not brought ‘enough’ dowry to her matrimonial house. They started demanding huge amount of money from her which she was unable to meet. Consequently they started abusing and ill-treating her. They even frequently subjected her to severe physical assault, she alleged. In the meantime she was blessed with two daughters. Ultimately her husband left her alone with the kids on 3 September, 2009. Since then there was no communication from his side. But Sharmista and her mother claimed that they had information that he married another girl and he was staying with her in Shillong, Meghalaya.
She stated that after her husband had disappeared the in-laws started demanding dowry and ill treating her afresh. At last they drove her away from her matrimonial house on 15 November, 2009 forcibly robbing her of all jewellery and other necessary items. She took shelter at her mother’s house with her two daughters.
She eventually on 3 November, 2009 filed a complaint against her husband and in-laws hoping for justice for wrongs done to her. On the basis of the complaint a First Information Report (FIR) was registered in the Silchar police station vide Silchar PS Case No. 2126/2009 dated 3 November, 2009 under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). Instead of investigating the case, Mr. S K Chauhan, the OC of the PS, started demanding bribes. At first Mrs. Sima Dutta was forced to pay him Rs. 5000.00 (five thousand) that day otherwise the OC refused to investigate the case. The OC then arrested all the accused except the prime accused Mr. Rananjay Das. Mrs. Dutta had to pay another sum of Rs. 900.00 (nine hundred) to a lady constable. They revealed that the constable demanded the payment as remuneration for guarding the lady accused Mitra Das for the night. Showing the main accused Mr. Rananjay Das as an absconder the police filed charge sheet in the court on 9 November, 2009. Sharmista claimed that the police did not investigated the case properly and did not exercised due diligence and wilfully neglected the arrest of accused No. 1. The OC also took another sum of Rs. 1,200.00 from Mrs Dutta on 12 November, 2009 which she paid for fear of attracting wrath of the OC, she claimed.
Sharmista stated that when she was driven away from her matrimonial house she left there hundreds of items that she received as her wedding gifts. These were the items of jewellery, apparels, utensils, furniture, furnishings etc. She filed a complaint on 10 March, 2010 to recover these things. The case was registered as Silchar PS Case No. 509/10 under sections 379 and 406, IPC. She also filed another application in the court district magistrate for a search warrant under section 94 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) vide Case No. 155 M/2010. SI Narayan Tamuli was made the Investigating Officer (IO) of the police case and he was also entrusted with the execution of the search warrant. Sharmista and Mrs Mithu Sen, a social activist, visited the police station on 17 March, 2010 to enquire about the investigation of the case and the execution of the search warrant. They paid Rs. 3000.00 (three thousand) and Rs. 20,000.00 (twenty thousand) to Mr. S K Chauhan and Nrayan Tamuli respectively under threat.
Sharmista alleged that S. I. Narayan Tamuli visited the house of Shri Rupendra Mohan Das at Moulavi Road, Ambicapatty, Silchar accompanied by her to execute the search warrant. He did not recover the items listed in the search warrant which she had shown there. Instead, he bullied her and took a few insignificant items as the accused were pleased to allow him. He never visited the other address mentioned in the search warrant.
So, she along with Mithu Sen and Aleya Islam Laskar, another social activist, visited the police station at 12 noon on 20 March, 2010 to know about the progress of the investigation relating to her complaints, S. I. Narayan Tamuli demanded Rs. 50,000.00 (fifty thousand) from them. They stated that Mr. S. K. Chauhan abused and threatened them with dire consequences and forcibly kept them in detention for over two hours in order to force them to pay the amount demanded by Mr. Tamuli. They could come out from the police station because the activists had connections.
Corruption of this magnitude and brutality with impunity is easily understandable for a person who knows that Mr. Narayan Tamuli himself is accused No. 1 in a case of murder for bribes. It is Katigorah P S Case No. 484/07 under sections 302 and 34 of the IPC where SI Narayan Tamuli, ASI Promod Nath and Constable Ramzan Hussain Choudhury were charged with causing death by torture of Motahir Ali of village Bhatgram under Katigorah police station in Cachar, Assam on 21 September, 2007. A departmental enquiry was conducted into the incident by R C Tayal, IPS, Inspector General of Police on 22 September, 2007. The accused were placed under suspension on 11 March, 2008 vide D. O. No. 703 dated 21 March, 2008 and then reinstated. A magisterial enquiry was also conducted vide No. MISC. CASE.1/2007/28 dated 9 April, 2008. This enquiry unequivocally concluded that ‘the police of Kalain Out Post was pro-active on the brutalities inflicted on Late Motahir Ali simply for the reason that the deceased family could not afford payment of gratification beyond the reach of the poorest family.’ A case was also registered in the Assam Human Rights Commission regarding this incident vide AHRC Case No.6404/2007. But till date neither the accused were prosecuted nor the family of the deceased was adequate compensation or any other type of reparation. That much paper work was made possible by the support of the people to the efforts of Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).
In the present case, it is also notable that Mr. Rupendra Mohan Das, the father-in-law of Sharmista is an advocate and a very influential senior member of the District Bar Association, Silchar, Assam. He is also well connected with the big politicians of Barak valley, the southern part of Assam. Sharmista, her mother and the two social activists stated that no advocate of the District Bar is willing to represent Sharmista. Members of BHRPC also talked with some advocates who, requesting anonymity, told that they are under severe pressure not to take brief against Rupendra Mohan das or any member of his family. They did not want to risk their life and career.
Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, the secretary general of BHPRC informed that he wrote to the authorities urging them to:
1. Register a case against Mr. S K Chauhan and Mr. Narayan Tamuli under section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 for demanding and accepting bribes and sections 389, 342 and 506 of the IPC for putting Sharmista and her companions in fear of accusation of offence in order to commit extortion, for their wrongful confinement and for criminal intimidation respectively.
2. Conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations resulting prosecution.
3. Entrust other officers in places of Mr. Chauhan and Mr. Tamuli and particularly for investigating the cases filed by Sharmista Das and for executing the search warrant.
4. Provide Sharmista with the services of a lawyer of her choice to represent her in her cases.
5. Guarantee adequate security to Sharmista, her mother, other witnesses and her lawyers.
6. Provide Sharmista and other persons subjected to harassment with adequate compensation.
It is to be seen how the authorities respond to these very minimal and specific demands.