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Saikia for probe by sitting Judge into violence during protests
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, Dec 15 - Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia has called for an enquiry by a sitting Judge of the Gauhati High Court into the violence that took place during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

 In a letter to Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi, the Congress leader also called for immediate and unconditional release of all detainees arrested by the police during the protests.

Five youths have been gunned down by the security forces and around 10 others are lying seriously injured in hospital in Guwahati city alone due to firing, lathicharge, etc, Saikia said. “As such, I would like to request Your Excellency to immediately ensure instituting of an enquiry by a sitting Justice of the Gauhati High Court into the violence perpetrated by protesters and security personnel alike,” he stated in the letter.

Saikia said that the enquiry should look into whether excessive use of force was warranted against the protesters and whether the Model Rules adopted by the Inspectors General of Police Conference, 1964, were adhered to while resorting to lathicharge and firing.

“In particular, (a) whether a magistrate was present at all sites where firing took place; (b) whether clear warning was given before firing commenced; (c) whether aim was kept low (this is important because some victims were reportedly shot in the head or chest); (d) whether any other method of crowd-control was tried before firing commenced,” said the Congress leader.

He demanded that the enquiry should also ascertain “whether certain members of the State government/ruling party intentionally provoked people to come out onto the streets and register protest on a massive scale. In particular, comments to the effect that (a) only a handful of students were against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (which is now an Act of Parliament); (b) that most Assamese people had not understood the Bill as it was drafted in English, and (c) that the protests would last only two or three days. Whether there is any evidence to support the claim made by certain members of the Central Government and the ruling dispensation in Assam that the violent aspect of the agitation is being engineered by the Congress party to discredit the BJP. In particular, the verifiability of the allegation levelled at election rallies in Jharkhand by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the effect that: ‘We brought the amended Citizenship Act and the Congress got a stomach ache and is fanning violence against it’.”

Pointing to the arrest of KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi and pro-talks ULFA leader Jiten Dutta, among others, Saikia alleged in the letter that some members of Opposition political parties, including three Congress workers in Majuli, have also been arrested on flimsy grounds because they participated in the protests.

“So far as the public knows, they were merely exercising their constitutional right to protest peacefully and raise slogans against the Government of the day. Both Gogoi and Dutta were arrested on earlier occasion too, but the Government subsequently failed to come up with credible evidence against them. As such, there is concrete ground to believe that these persons are easy scapegoats whom the Government uses to hide its own failures. It is not a healthy sign for our democracy that critics of the Government are locked up at the first sign of public resentment. Therefore, I request Your Excellency to advise the state Government to release all such detainees immediately and unconditionally,” stated Saikia.

He urged the Governor to advise the government to withdraw the Army even while guarding against saboteurs, and to revoke curfew, restore Internet services and “take all other steps which will make the common people believe that they are living in a democratic country and not a Police State.”

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