Ikbal Hussain: Another victim of extrajudicial execution in Assam
Waliullah Ahmed Laskar
The latest civilian victim of extrajudicial execution in the northeast Indian state of Assam is Ikbal Hussain Laskar – who was tortured to death by army men on October 9, 2010. The state had counted more than 150 extrajudicial civilian deaths in 2009.
According to the report published by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), a Barak valley based human rights organization of Assam, soldiers of Indian Army illegally raided a family at midnight and took Ikbal forcefully after torturing him severely and then torture continued resulting in his death. Ikbal Hussain Laskar, 42, belonged to the village of Chiparsangan, Part – III, under Algapur Police Station of Hailakandi district, Assam. He was tortured to death on 9 October, 2010 allegedly by the Army personnel belonging to 117/36 Artillery Field Regiment/ DTY COB, Manipur, Hailakandi, Assam.
Commenting on the incident human rights defender Ms. Anjuman Ara Begum[i] states that according to Home Ministry’s annual report in 2009, 368 people, including 152 civilians, were killed in 424 incidents in Assam. Civilian death is the slow intensity war in north east India has wide prevalence. Extrajudicial execution is arbitrary deprivation of life by denying right to life and right to a fair trial. It is a kind of capital punishment by the state authorities without the Court’s verdict after a fair trial. Such executions are witnesses in north east India especially Assam and Manipur for decades under the umbrella Act called the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. Instances of extra judicial executions in the state of Assam and Mnaipur are going on without much visible remedy.
According to the field study conducted by BHRPC the sequence leading to the death of Ikbal indicates extrajudicial execution. The incident narrated by BHRPC is that on 9 October, 2010 at around 3:30 am when Ikbal was sleeping in his residence with his family members including his wife and 3 daughters. Suddenly he woke up hearing the sounds of someone calling him and knocking at the gate of his house. The caller identified as police officer and said that he wanted to ask something to Ikbal. Ikbal came out and opened the gate of his verandah. Instead of asking any questions, the visitor identifying as police caught him by the hand and dragged him toward the north side of the building where 5 other soldiers in uniforms started beating and kicking him without any rhyme and reason. Ikbal was stunned with these sudden unexpected turn of the event and it took some time for him to realize the situation. He started crying and screaming in despair. Family members also became shocked at the developments and urged the soldiers in uniform to stop beating Ikbal. Then the family members realized that their house is cordoned off by about fifteen soldiers. Neighbors started rushing to the spot but were denied entry by gun men who were posted at the entrance.
The soldiers tortured Ikbal severely and then forced him to wash his face and change dress. Then they forcefully boarded him in a vehicle that they brought and continued to beat him.
Ikbal’s wife Parul Begum Laskar, aged about 38, daughters Adiba Ikbal Laskar (also known as Salmi) (19), Tahmima Ikbal Laskar aka Sammi (14) and Ajuba Ikbal Laskar aka Simi (9) informed members of BHRPC that when they were beseeching the army to stop the infliction of brutalities on Ikbal they were shown guns and asked to keep silence. The family also informed BHRPC that the army forced them to put their signature on a piece of paper where something was written but were not allowed to read the contents. They were also warned not to approach the police or file any complaint, otherwise they will have to face dire consequences, the raiding army told them. The army personnel took away two mobile sets, of which one was having a SIM card with phone No. +919707142785, one torch light and one mobile charger. The army gave them two mobile numbers 09508548935 and 094013210458 for contact.
The incident of Ikbal’s illegal detention was witnessed by several family members including Labib Ahmed Laskar (38), brother of Ikbal. He informed the BHRPC that when he rushed toward his brother’s house from his adjacent house at midnight hearing hue and cry, he was stopped at gun point by the army. He saw his brother was being beaten by the army from a distance of 15 feet. He saw his brother was severely injured; as a result, he was rendered unable even to walk toward the army vehicle. The Army came with two vehicles (TATA Sumo).
When army took away Ikbal, the villagers tried to contact the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Algapur Police Station Mr. Baktar Uddin over the phone. The OC informed them that he was ignorant about the operation. Then the family members approached the former Minister of Assam Mr. Shahidul Alom Choudhury. Mr. Choudhury then called the army of Manipur camp at around 7am. The army personnel told him that they had arrested Ikbal on wrong information and that he would be released soon. He then again called the army at around 12 noon on that day i.e, 9 October and got the same reply.
Several individuals tried to help the family. Mr. Anwar Uddin Barlaskar, a retired district judge, Mr. Labib and Mr. Sabib met the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Hailakandi at around 8:30am on behalf of the victim family and the villagers. The SP informed about the operation assuring follow up. The SP also told them a meeting of Army officers, district police and district administration was held the previous day where it was made sure that there would be no operation without any prior information to the police They then met the District Magistrate of Hailakandi at his residence. He also expressed his ignorance about the operation and he committed that he would find out the victim. At around 1pm some army personnel came to the victim’s house and asked for any earlier medical records of the victim related to heart or abdomen. But there were no such records. At that time they informed that the victim is at Silchar Medical College and Hosptial, Silchar and his health was deteriorating. The victim’s family then went to the SMCH and found him dead at 3pm.
With the death of an innocent civilian like Ikbal, local people started protesting it and thousands of people gathered at Chiparsangan area and blocked the road. The SP Mr. Hemanta Bhattacharya and the DM Mr. Tapan Chandra Goswami came at Chiparsangan and assured of a judicial enquiry including the post mortem examination would be conducted at day time and it would also be video recorded. At these promises the public lifted the blockade. The next day, 10th October, at about 5:30 pm, after the post mortem was held, the dead body was handed over to the family.
The BHRPC members also met Mr. Abdul Basit Choudhury, OC, Algapur PS (reinstated) at the house of the victim and collected information about the case. The OC informed that a case was filed by the victim’s wife Parul Laskar which was registered as Algapur PS case no.243/10 dated 09/10/10 under sections 302, 365 and 310 of the Indian Penal Code, 1861 and another case was also filed by Lieutenant Naveen Kumar which was registered as Algapur PS case no. 244/10 dated 09/10/10 under sections 489b and 489c, IPC. The OC was made the investigating officer of the case that was registered regarding the incident. He told that a home guard named Abdul Shukkur Barbhuiya from Kathlichera PS accompanied the army and he is the main witness of the incident. The OC also told that the army took the victim to the army camp, then to a primary hospital and then to the S. K. Roy Civil Hospital of Hailakandi and ultimately to the SMC Hospital where he was declared dead. The latter described that the accused Ikbal was found to keep some fake currencies and that the complainant had taken him to the said hospitals and there was nothing mentioned about the death.
Mrs. Parul Laskar (38), wife of Ikbal is a social activist and she is the counselor of the family counseling centre run by Assam Enviro-Legal Protection Society. Lt. Ikbal Hussain Laskar was one of the 7 brothers, very loving and adorable by the family members who share a joint family. Ikbal and Labib have recently constructed a new house as joint family property but his untimely brutal murder deprived him from enjoying his family life in the newly constructed house.