Assam police demolish ‘illegal’ homes of mob accused of torching station

Nagaon: A day after a mob set ablaze a police station in Assam’s Nagaon district, bulldozers razed to the ground at least six houses of people allegedly involved in the arson, and unearthed arms and ammunition and drugs from beneath the structures, a senior officer said on Monday.

Bulldozers and excavators were used on Sunday to demolish the houses of several residents of Salnabori village, near Batadrava Police Station which was set on fire on May 21 following the alleged custodial death of a local, Safikul Islam, who was picked up the night before.

The house of Islam, whose death allegedly in police custody had triggered the arson, and those of his relatives, were among those demolished, locals claimed.

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“When we went for a search operation yesterday, we got information that the accused had buried firearms and other incriminating items under the ground inside the houses. So, we had to clear the land and the houses were demolished,” Nagaon Superintendent of Police Leena Doley told PTI.

She said that police found one country-made revolver, four cartridges of 9 mm pistol and 6,500 Nitrazepam tablets buried in the ground inside the houses.

“These people have criminal records. Even their land documents are doubtful. We have asked the Nagaon DC to survey the entire area to verify the land documents as these might be forged,” Doley said.

Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) Gyanendra Pratap Singh had on Sunday claimed that many people involved in the arson were found to have encroached upon the land they reside on and had forged documents to show ownership.

“We have registered a case and alerted the district administration, which carried out the eviction drive,” he had stated.

The Batadrava Police Station was set on fire on Saturday afternoon by an irate mob following the custodial death of a local fish trader, Safikul Islam (39), who was picked up by police the night before.

When asked about the investigation into the incident, Doley said: “We have arrested six people in connection with the arson and our probe is underway. We had detained 12 others but later released them as we did not find their involvement in the case. There were an estimated 200 people present during the attack at the police station.”

She said that police is analysing video footage collected from the public as well as media to identify the culprits and nab them.

“There is no doubt that the attack was pre-planned and organised. The people had a criminal history and they came to burn records kept at the police station. Our input says that most of them are drug dealers,” Doley said.

The police is also investigating Jihadi involvement in the case, especially the burning down of the police station, she said without divulging further details.

“We have registered three cases in total — two at the destroyed Batadrava Police Station and one at nearby Dhing. The Additional SP of neighbouring Karbi Anglong district will probe into the incident and see if there was any lapse on the part of the personnel in preventing the attack,” Doley said.

The Nagaon SP has also set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to monitor the entire investigation into the incident.

“A forensic team has visited the spot and collected samples. They will ascertain the cause of the fire and the materials used to burn down the police station,” she added.

Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, who had visited Batadrava Police Station on Sunday, indicated that anti-national elements may be behind the incident.

“I will not call them Jihadis. Perhaps the mob was organised by people who were trained by outfits engaged in anti-India activities,” he had said.

The ruling BJP, however, termed the attack on the police station as “an organised terrorist act” and claimed that “trained Jihadis were involved”. The party also welcomed the decision of carrying out the “eviction exercise against the encroachers”.

Since the BJP-led government returned to power last year, several eviction drives had been undertaken in the state and houses demolished, including one at Gorukhuti in Darrang district in September last year in which two persons were shot dead by the police.

Similar anti-encroachment drives were launched in New Delhi’s Jahangirpuri and Khargone in Madhya Pradesh after clashes there.

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