Assam: Killer Cops Get Promoted
Waliullah Ahmed Laskar
There is nothing new about the fact that cops in Assam (a North East Indian state) enjoy immunity from the reach of the long hands of the law for each and every crime they commit to please their political bosses and even get perks and promotion. They enjoy such immunity to an extent greater than their bosses do in most of the cases because they know how to please those who rule the day. This de facto impunity is in addition to the legal impunity provided to the security personnel under many laws termed by civil society and human rights groups as ‘draconian’ and ‘repressive’ such as the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955, the Assam Police Act, 2007, section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and other laws. It is almost an accepted regime in Assam. Nobody gets surprised nowadays by reports of police committing crimes and getting rewards in the forms of medal and promotion.
This case is a little bit different. The case shows that the authorities are throwing a challenge to the public in effect that our cops will demand bribes and in case of refusal they will kill you and then we will promote them for their bravery while we will also declare that he has killed you for not meeting the demand. This is what exactly happened in the case of Motahir Ali Tapadar, a 38 year old day labourer, of village Bhatgram under Katigorah Police Station (PS) in the district of Cachar, Assam (India), who was killed in police custody on 21 September, 2007 for being unable to pay the demanded gratification.
According to the report of the magisterial inquiry obtained under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), the Additional District Magistrate (ADC) of Cachar found that ‘a petty quarrel between Motahir Ali and his neighbour Sahab Uddin took place at about 11 am on 20 September 2007 in front of their houses centring around a very minor quarrel amongst the kids of two neighbouring houses over playthings or games resulting in the quarrel between the elders which led to the scuffling. Sahab Uddin and Motahir Ali went to the Police Patrol Post (PP) at Kalain and lodged complaint against each other. Shri Narayan Tamuli, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) and in-charge of Kalain Police Patrol Post (PP) accompanied by his constables arrived to the houses of complainants and took them to the PP and kept them under detention. Some respectable persons of Bhatgram and relatives of the detainees went there with request to bail them out and settle the case amicably. Alimun Nesa, wife of Motahir Ali who were observing the holy Ramjan fasting took food to her husband in the evening and served in the police lock up. Motahir Ali was quite normal at that time. Alimun Nesa met Narayan Tamuli and pleaded for release of her husband from the police custody stating the background of the quarrel. Sri Tamuli demanded Rs. 10,000.00 (rupees ten thousand) from her as the price of release. She stated that they are too poor to afford the payment. However, she stated that she could collect Rs. 500.00 to Rs. 600.00 (five hundred to six hundred) from her neighbours and give it to Sri Tamuli. But Sri Tamuli turned deaf ear to the submission made by Alimun Nesa. As she was not obliging, Tamuli denied release of her husband. The in-charge and his staff tortured Motahir Ali mercilessly the whole night of 20 November 2007. On 21 November 2007 (next morning) Alimun Nesa again went to the PP and found her husband was lying on the floor of the lock up and could hardly move or speak. Motahir Ali could somehow express that he was brutally beaten and kicked by the police staff and he was badly inflicted injury in the abdomen. He further told to his wife that there is least chance of his survival after whole night of brutal rituals by the policemen.’
‘When the condition of Motahir Ali deteriorated Tamuli dragged him to an auto rickshaw and took to Kalain Primary Health Centre (PHC). In the PHC Sri Tamuli and his colleagues repeated the brutality upon Md. Motahir Ali in front of the doctors and the hospital staff. The public present there witnessed the torturing and tried to dissuade the police but in vain. Dr. Badal Das, in-charge of the PHC reportedly examined Motahir Ali and after discussion with the in-charge of the PP, they decided to send the patient to Silchar Medical College & Hospital (SMCH) for treatment but he died on the way.’
The report says that ‘it is revealed from the hearing that Late Motahir Ali was a day labourer and lived from hand to mouth. His family consisted of his wife and 3 (three) minor children. His wife was an expecting mother at that time. Late Motahir Ali was a peace loving man and there was no public complaint against him. It is stated by Alimun Nesa, the helpless widow of Late Motahir Ali that a minor quarrel amongst the neighbours’ children over playthings developed into an insignificant scuffling between the elders— resulting in filing a police case and arrest by the Kalain police and detaining them in police custody. The inhuman torture inflicted upon Motahir Al for non-payment of the gratification and gearing up the brutality by the police staff and subsequent death of the simple day labourer in the Kalian PHC before the noon on 21 September 2007 in front of the doctor of the hospital and his staff is bitterly experienced by the people of Kalain.’ (Emphasis supplied, throughout).
‘One Sri Ramzan Ali, Constable under Sri Tamuli administered the point of lathi straightway at the abdomen of Late Motahir Ali at the Kalain PHC resulting in total silence of the body of Motahir Ali. It is stated that the constable’s last stroke made the way or caused the circumstances for demise of Motahir Ali.’
The report concludes that ‘the police of Kalain PP 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.’
Regarding the arson and destruction of the public properties the magistrate states that ‘the death news spread at Kalain and adjacent areas and public in the locality got infuriated. Hundreds of local people gathered at around 2 pm in front of the PP and Gaon Panchayat (GP, an elected village level local government body, village counterpart of municipality) Office and started slogans and pelted stones at the PP. Police tried to control with their existing forces but could not succeed. Police opened fire injuring one person but no casualty was there though it has been claimed that 80 round fires were opened at that time to disperse the angry crowd. The PP caught fire and it got completely gutted. Nearby GP office of Kalain also caught fire and burned to ashes resulting in loss of public documents and properties. There was a little attempt to save the public properties and it was left at the whims of the excited public who took their own course of action.’ He added, “(h)owever, the actual causes of catching fire on both the offices are yet to be ascertained.”
Commenting on the report Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, Secretary General of BHRPC, says, ‘so far as the conclusion of the inquiry concerning the death of Motahir Ali is concerned BHRPC is substantially in agreement with the findings but the organisation sticks to its findings regarding the incidents of the aftermath.’ He points to the BHRPC fact-finding report which observed that ‘hundreds of local people gathered at 2 pm around the house of patrol post and started shouting slogans demanding arrest of Narain Tamuli. Police charged them with sticks and gun butts which further infuriated the crowd and they started throwing stones. Police then opened fire and kept firing till 80 rounds were shot. In the firing there was only one severe injury. Shahidur Rahman, 17, who was watching the incident from the roof top of a two storied house, was injured badly in his left leg. He was admitted to SMCH, Silchar. Being terrified by such heavy firing the crowd got dispersed. Then the police themselves set fire on the patrol post and burnt it down in order to distract the attention of people from the murder and hush it up. The propaganda that after the death of Motahir Ali the outraged local people burnt down the patrol post is false and intentional.’
The report goes on, ‘the terrified local people at first shut their mouth tight. At first nobody dared to speak anything about the incident. Subsequently a large number of local people requesting anonymity claimed that some men of police had burnt down the patrol post. They raise two arguments for the claim. Firstly, although there was only one hit and injury the police shot eighty rounds of fire to disperse the mob and no mob can withstand such a large quantity of fire. In fact, exactly this thing happened. The mob got dispersed and fled away after a few rounds of firing. Secondly, fire caught first in the hind part of the patrol post. If the mob had set fire they would have done so in the front part because they were there. Moreover, there is a marsh behind the patrol post house for which it is not possible for the mob to come along this side.’
‘Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against one Faruk Ahmed and other five hundred unidentified persons in connection with the fabricated charges of attempt to murder, causing obstruction to police in the performance of their lawful duty etc. invoking section 307 etc. of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). Police, in connection with this false case, raided, beaten, abused and humiliated family members, relatives and fellow villagers of the victim. Even they arrested three innocent persons, namely Faruk Ahmed, Ibajul Hoque and Imamul Hoque, who were subsequently released on bail by the Gauhati High Court.’
‘When, Sahidur Rahman, the person injured in police firing recovered a little and released from the SMCH was also arrested by the police, which was termed by the civil society of the valley as barbaric and brutal. At the intervention of BHRPC the Superintendent of Jails sent him to the hospital then applied to the court for according permission.’
The fact-finding report goes on, “BHRPC thinks that the weight of the arguments can not be denied. There are enough reasons to believe that the police might not have burnt the patrol post themselves but they did so through the agency of hired persons. In fact, the incident of burning down the patrol post is intriguing and indicative of a deeper and larger conspiracy. The way in which police is desperately over-active in hounding the people in relation to the case of burning down the patrol post despite requests from various quarters not to harass and arrest the innocent people and to call an all-party-meeting to decide further action regarding the case, is indicative of such a conspiracy.”
At the intervention of BHRPC, however, a case was registered at Katigorah police station as Katigorah PS Case No. 484/07 dated 4 October, 2007 under section 302 read with section 34 of the IPC against Narayan Tamuli, ASI Promod Nath and constable Ramzan Ali Choudhury on the complaint of Alimun Nesa. The accused applied for pre-arrest bail in the Gauhati High Court at Guwahati and the court granted them an ‘interim bail’ with a direction to surrender before the trial court. At their appearance before the trial court all the three accused were taken into judicial custody on 11 March, 2008. Later they were released on bail by the high court.
Superintendent of Police (SP), Cachar told on 18 July 2008 that ‘the investigation of the case is almost complete and the final form of the case is being submitted soon’. How long a duration constitutes ‘soon’?
In a petition, however, the Gauhati High Court issued order stating that “it is directed that if the case is not forwarded to the (Criminal Investigation Department) CID the same shall be done immediately and the CID shall investigate the case in prompt and proper manner.” Does not the word ‘prompt’ mean ‘without delay’? How much time constitutes ‘delay’?
BHRPC also submitted a complaint regarding the case before the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on 6 December, 2007. The AHRC registered a case vide AHRC Case No. 6404/2007 dated 18 July 2008 and issued a notice to the government asking for a report. The AHRC sent a letter to the BHRPC with the report asking for its comments on the findings in the report. The BHRPC on 3 December, 2008 sent its comments expressing its agreement regarding the conclusion drawn in the report about the fact and circumstances responsible for the death of Motahir Ali and requested the commission to grant an interim relief to the relatives of the victim and recommend for the prosecution of the violators as it is the mandate of the AHRC to do so under its constituting statute, the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The BHRPC, however, disagreed with the findings of the inquiry about setting fire on the PP and the GP office, opening fire on the protesting people, registering false case against them, arrest of many protestors in connection with that false case and harassment of many others with a request to conduct an independent investigation into these matters. But since then AHRC did not respond despite sending many reminders for reasons not understandable.
It was also publicized that a departmental inquiry into the incident was conducted by RC Tayal, an Inspector General of Police (IGP) and that the report was submitted on 22 September, 2007. Pursuant to the report the three accused were placed under suspension on 11 March 2008 and a departmental proceeding initiated against them on 21 March 2008. But nobody knows what happened to the proceedings and when and how they got reinstated and promoted.
As if it is an inevitability, Narayan Tamuli got promoted from ASI to SI and secured posting in the Silchar Sadar police station, the main PS in Silchar city, which is regarded as the cultural and business capital of the entire Barak valley. BHRPC recently documented another case involving SI Narayan Tamuli. He was the investigating officer in a case registered at the Silchar PS and was also entrusted with the responsibility of the execution of a search warrant. The complainant in both the cases was Sharmista Das, a victim of domestic violence who was driven away from her matrimonial house by the in-laws who took away all her things that she received as her wedding gifts. The victim alleged that Tamuli took a gratification of Rs. 20,000.00 (twenty thousand) from her under duress and demanded another Rs. 50,000.00 (fifty thousand) after detaining her and two others when they visited the police station on 20 March, 2010 to know about the progress of the investigation relating to her complaints. Her companions were social activists and they somehow managed to come out from the clutch of the killer cop with the help of their connections outside.
When the entire system protects someone there is little hope left for justice.
N A Mazumder informed that BHRPC filed an application on 24 May, 2010 under RTI asking the Assam Police Headquarter for 1) a copy of the report of the departmental enquiry into the custodial death of Motahir Ali; 2) details of the actions taken against the accused/responsible police personnel by the department; 3) if no actions have been taken the reasons thereof in detail; 4) details of the progress in investigation in Katigorah PS case No. 484/07; 5) details of the progress made and procedures taken by the CID in the case; 6) copy of the charge sheet submitted by the Katigorah Police or the CID in Katigorah PS Case No. 484/07; 7) if no charge sheet has been submitted the reasons thereof in detail with a copy of the final report regarding the case; and 8) any other information held by the office of the Director General of Police (DGP) or any office of the Assam Police regarding the order of the Gauhati High Court in Crl. M.C. No. 484/07 and custodial death of Motahir Ali.
In fine, here is an ASI of police in-charge of a police patrol post in a remote village area who arrests an innocent person, demands bribes beyond the reach of the indigent family and at refusal they torture the man throughout the night and done him to death the next day in front of hundreds of people. The local people get agitated and demand immediate arrest of the killer cops. Police respond by opening fire on them injuring many. Police also reportedly set fire on their patrol post itself and an adjoining public office allegedly for two reasons: to divert the attention of larger public and to persecute local people for daring to protest the murder by implicating them under false charges of arson, rioting, destruction of public properties etc. But at the intervention of human rights groups the police department has to conduct an inquiry and suspend the accused cops. A magisterial inquiry is also conducted which concludes that the cops killed the person because his family could not meet the excessive demands for bribes made by the police. An FIR is also registered against them. Cops are arrested and then released on bail. On a petition the high court orders prompt investigation by CID of the Assam Police. The AHRC also registers a case, issues notice to the authorities asking for report and then asks for comments from the petitioner on the report. Meanwhile the cops get reinstated and the leader of the killer group gets a posting in a prestigious police station with a promotion from ASI to Sub Inspector (SI) and the AHRC also puts the files in the shelf to gather dusts. No compensation to the family of the victim is provided after about 3 years of the incident. No charge sheet is filed and trial started.
The Case is somewhat different from the pattern of human rights violations in Barak valley. The difference lies in the fact that the authorities cleverly deceived the people by showing that actions are being taken while in deed they are shielding the cops. Because, in most of the cases they even don’t care about such pretensions. This case, therefore, shows that the authorities are throwing challenge to the public that our cops will demand bribes and in case of refusal they will kill you and then we will promote them for their bravery while we will also declare that he has killed you for not meeting the demand.
It has become a very lucrative trade in Assam, particularly in Barak valley, for the politicians who are in power to collect bribes through the bureaucrats and security forces giving the collectors their commission. This is in addition to embezzling funds allotted in the name of various development and welfare schemes. Those who can collect and give more naturally get more protection and promotion.
This only shows the helplessness of the law-abiding citizens and human rights groups in Assam.
 For cases of human rights violations with impunity see: VIOLATION CASES at http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/
 Magisterial Enquiry Report of Custodial Death of Motahir Ali vide NO. MISC. CASE. 1/2007/28 dated Silchar, the 9th April, 2008 published by BHRPC at the URL: <http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/magisterial-enquiry-report-on-custodial-death-of-motahir-ali/>, accessed on 1 June 2010
 For more information about BHRPC visit http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/
 Wali Laskar, Custodial Murder of Mutahir Ali Tapader and Subsequent Police Atrocity in Barak Valley of Assam, Countercurrents.org, 31 October, 2007, accessed on 1 June 2010 at the URL:
 Order of the Gauhati High Court in B. A. No. 1074/08
 Letter of the SP, Cachar addressed to ADC, Cachar vide No. G/SR/3680 dated 18/07/08
 Order of the Gauhati High Court in Smti. Alimun Nesa Vs Shri Narayan Chandra Tamuli and others (Crl. M.C. No. 208 of 2008 in B. A. No. 1074/08)
 AHRC CASE No. 6404/2007/14 dated 18-0702008
 Assam Police Order vide D.O. No. 703 dated 21/03/08
 Assam Police Order vide DP No. 01/08, 02/08 and 03/08
 BHRPC, Brief Summery of the BHRPC Fact-finding Report on Incidents of Extortion and Harassment of a Victim of Domestic Violence by Police in Silchar accessed on 1 June 2010 at the URL:
 Silchar PS Case No. 509/10 under sections 379 and 406, IPC
 A search warrant under section 94 of the Cr PC vide Case No. 155 M/2010