Guwahati, July 15: Rebutting criticism against the recent encounters in 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.
Replying to a Zero Hour discussion on the rising number of encounters initiated by the Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia in the Assembly, Sarma appealed to all the MLAs to send a message that the House is against any form of crime.
"As a leader of the House, I thank and congratulate the Assam police for its work as whole and especially in my tenure. "I want to tell the DGP that do not torture innocent people. You have full operational liberty as long as you fight against the criminals as per the law," he added. Sarma informed the house that in the last two months, 15 alleged criminals have died and 23 others were injured in police encounters when they snatched service weapons, tried to attack and attempted to escape.
"As the chief minister of the state and with full sense of responsibility, I want to say that we have zero tolerance towards cow smuggling, drug trade, human trafficking, crime against women and children, and all crimes will be dealt with heavily and firmly irrespective of religion and caste," he added. The criminals must understand that there is a government, which is confident, resolute and has the will power to retaliate against them if it is attacked or try to flee but within the ambit of the law, said Sarma, who also holds the Home portfolio.
Giving examples of the situations leading to encounters, he said that among the killed were six suspected Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) terrorists and two alleged militants of United People's Revolutionary Front (UPRF) who were heavily armed and opened fire at police, which went to arrest the insurgents.
"There is one RPF personnel, who was the kingpin of a drug network. When police arrested him, he knew that it was the end of his world. So, he snatched the service revolver of one policeman and then police had to fire at him. "In the minor rape case of Morigaon, the accused killed the 9-year old girl and then he raped her from both sides - vagina and anal. These are not humans. He knew that he will be convicted with extreme punishment and so he tried to flee.
Police had to fire at him," Sarma said. A total of 504 persons have been arrested in the last two months for their alleged involvement in cattle smuggling and only four of them were injured in police firing as they tried to escape, he added. "It is the police which again take the criminals to hospital, treat them and then produce them in the court. Our main attempt is to get the criminals convicted and punished," Sarma said.
He said that the critics are citing laws and human rights, but the same law and the Constitution give power to a police person to defend himself and act against the criminals. Claiming that such police encounters have been going on for decades, the chief minister said, "Sympathy is important, but misplaced sympathy is very very dangerous. If a message goes from here that the police did wrong, then they will sleep again.
"The Assembly needs to send a strong signal against all forms of crime. Law will rule here and police will act as per the law. If police do anything wrong to an innocent, then we will condemn and it will be probed. But, as long as they fight against criminals lawfully, the assembly will stand by the Assam police."
Earlier, Saikia pointed out media reports and said no inquiry as per the law has been ordered in the encounters that resulted in deaths of the alleged criminals. "We welcome the steps taken to stop the crimes, but if law is not followed, then it is the breakdown of the Constitution. Police must register FIR and follow the necessary criminal proceedings... The CM's statement at the police conference was anti-Constitution," he added.
At the first ever face-to-face meeting with the Officers In-Charge (OCs) of all 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 to fire at them. On Wednesday, the chief minister told the assembly that the Assam police will retaliate against criminals trying to snatch service weapons of its personnel and attacking them or fleeing from their custody, thereby defending the series of encounters in the last two months.
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 on May 10.