Guwahati, July 14: Justifying the series of encounters that have taken place in Assam in the last two months, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday asserted that attacks on the police will be "retaliated" and "extreme steps" as per the law will be taken to stop such criminals.
Replying to a Zero Hour discussion on narcotic drugs initiated by AGP MLA Prodip Hazarika, Sarma said that one person has been killed and seven others have been injured for their alleged involvement in drug rackets since he assumed power on May 10.
"Any attack on the police will be retaliated against. The Assam Police cannot be a mute spectator when their service revolvers are snatched or culprits try to flee," he said. Sarma said that the government has announced a zero-tolerance policy towards narcotic drugs and as long as he is in power, "this will go on". Congress MLAs Sherman Ali Ahmed and Rakibul Hussain raised the issue of a rising number of encounters, and said that police, as per the law, can open fire below the waist to stop an accused.
Responding to this, the Chief Minister said, "My clear order is - don't break the law. Do everything under the law and take extreme steps to stop such criminals." He informed the House that the Assam Police has registered 1,021 cases related to the drug trade and arrested 1,897 people in the last two months. Besides, nearly 28 kg of heroin worth Rs 50 crore, 12,883 kg of ganja, 41 kg of opium, 78,000 bottles of cough syrup, 13.66 lakh tablets of psychotropic substances, 3 kg of morphine, 15,000 FICN, and Rs 1.8 crore in cash have been seized during this period, he said.
"The seized drugs may be just around 20 percent of what is available in the market. When we are trying so hard to cleanse the state, there is an ongoing attempt to label our police force as trigger-happy and inhuman. There is a huge drug market in Assam and never were such actions taken earlier," he said. The Chief Minister claimed that some insurgent groups are involved in the drug network, but the ULFA(I) is not a part of this, and on the contrary, they "helped the police to capture peddlers" on many occasions.
"All the northeastern states are trying to have a coordinated approach to deal with the drug menace. Recently, the Manipur Police had arrested a kingpin of the rhino poaching network in their state," Sarma said. Since May, at least 15 suspected militants and criminals have been shot dead and dozens of others, including rape accused and suspected cattle smugglers, injured in Assam after they allegedly tried to escape from custody. Sarma had on July 5 said that shooting at criminals "should be the pattern" if they attempt to escape from custody or try to snatch guns from the police to fire at them.
Taking suo moto cognisance, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has asked the state government to institute an enquiry into the circumstances that led to the deaths and injuries in police encounters in the last two months. Earlier, a Delhi-based lawyer from Assam, Arif Jwadder, had filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the Assam Police over the series of encounters that have taken place since Sarma assumed charge. Elaborating on the drug market in Assam and Northeast, the Chief Minister informed the assembly that earlier he thought that the narcotic substances enter the region from South Asia and pass through it to the rest of India.
"However, after I took charge, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told me to work on three areas - rising drug abuse, cow smuggling and human trafficking. It was a surprise for me that all these activities were going on rampant in Assam," he said. Sarma said that the Assam Police has been seizing narcotic drugs, especially heroin, for a long time and recovered 10 kg in 2016, 5 kg in 2017, 7 kg in 2018, 23 kg in 2019 and 27 kg last year.
"Families are being ruined and Assam is getting destroyed because of drugs. We have seen a film named 'Udta Punjab' (a Bollywood blockbuster on Punjab's drug menace). We are moving towards 'Udta Assam' but unfortunately, we didn't know anything about it," he said. Sarma said that even some Assam Police personnel, forest guards and RPF were involved in this massive drug network spread across all the districts.
The Chief Minister said that the seized drugs will be publicly burned in various districts on July 17 and 18 to send a message to the society, and urged all the MLAs to participate in the events in their respective areas. "If our society and good people work together, we will be able to finish the drug network in the next 2-3 years," Sarma added.