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One more police encounter in Assam, drug peddler injured

One more police encounter in Assam, drug peddler injured

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Morigaon, July 16: A suspected drug peddler was injured in a police encounter in Morigaon district of Assam as he allegedly tried to escape from custody, an official said on Friday.

Since the second BJP-led government assumed power two months ago, at least 15 suspected militants and criminals were killed and 24 others injured in police encounters in the state as they allegedly tried to snatch service weapons or attempted to escape from custody, he said. The drug mafia of Moirabari area was shot by a policeman at around 1 am on Friday at Sagunbahi village when he tried to run away from custody, a senior officer said.

The incident took place when the accused was taken to a char (sandbar) area for another operation against a drug smuggling racket, a police source said. The suspected drug peddler involved in an inter-state racket was shot on his knees and taken to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital for treatment, the official said. He was arrested from the neighbouring Nagaon district on July 14. He has links with drug mafias of Nagaon, Morigaon and Karbi Anglong districts and has a connection with criminals in Dimapur of Nagaland, the police officer said.

A rising number of police encounters, which have seen several suspected insurgents and criminals being shot dead as they "tried to escape" from custody in the last two months, has whipped up a political furore in Assam. The opposition parties alleged that the Assam Police turned "trigger happy" under the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led regime, and "open killings" by the police have been going on in the name of encounters. Unfazed by criticism of his government over recent encounter killings, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said the state police has "full operational liberty" to fight against the criminals within the ambit of law.

On Wednesday, the Chief Minister told the House that the Assam Police will retaliate against criminals for "trying to snatch service weapons of its personnel and attacking them or escaping from their custody". He defended the series of encounters in the last two months. At a face-to-face meeting with officers-in-charge (OCs) of all the police stations of Assam on July 5, Sarma had said that shooting at criminals "should be the pattern" if they attempt to escape from custody or try to snatch arms from the police opened fire.

Taking suo moto cognisance, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had on July 7 asked the state government to institute an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the death and injury of the accused in police encounters over the past two months. Earlier, a New Delhi-based lawyer from Assam, Arif Jwadder, had filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the Assam Police for a series of encounters that have taken place since Sarma took over the charge on May 10.

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