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Assam: Houses of people accused of setting police station ablaze demolished

Nagaon (Assam): Assam's Nagaon district authorities on Sunday demolished the houses of several families who were allegedly involved in setting the Batadrava Police Station on fire on Saturday following the alleged custodial death of a local, Safikul Islam, who was picked up the night earlier.

Asked about the eviction drive in Salnabori village, Special DGP (Law and Order) GP Singh said many people involved in the incident were found to have encroached upon the lands they reside on and have forged documents to show ownership.

"We have registered a case and alerted the district administration, which carried out the eviction drive," the police officer added.

Local reports suggested that about six houses, including that of Islam, were demolished by the administration on Sunday.

Director General of Police (DGP) Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta, who visited Batardava on Sunday, said, a SIT, headed by an additional superintendent of police, will be formed to look into the arson incident. Five miscreants have already been apprehended and investigation was underway to identify and nab the others. To a question on possible involvement of jihadis behind the attack, Mahanta said, I will not call them jihadis. But perhaps the mob was organised by people who were trained by outfits engaged in anti-India activities.

The DGP said police have information that fundamentalist outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) was trying to set base in Nagaon and adjoining areas. He said, "ABT modules were busted recently in Assam, Tripura and Bhopal. We are aware that some of them are functioning in these areas. They have entered mosques and madrassas, but they don't have the support of common people. "They are trying to create sleeper cells so that foreign mujahideens can be brought here," he added. Mahanta said that the incident seemed "systematic and planned".

"In this particular incident, we have seen an element of preparedness. People were provoked," he claimed. The DGP also said that a drug peddler and a dacoit have been identified in the mob that had set ablaze the police station, with the police also trying to find out if the attack was aimed at burning down evidence and case diaries. He stated that an additional SP of neighbouring district of Karbi Anglong, Prakash Sonowal, has been entrusted with the task of conducting an independent inquiry into the allegation of custodial death.

"I have seen a photo which clearly indicates that Islam was drunk or high on drugs when he was brought in to the police station on Friday night. Technically, he died in custody. There is allegation of fault on part of the police and the independent inquiry will determine it," he added.

Earlier in the day, Mahanta had said that the in-charge of Batadrava police station has been suspended and rest of the staff closed, following the attack. In a Facebook post previously, the DGP had said that Islam was released by the police on Saturday and handed over to his wife, who took him to two hospitals when he complained of uneasiness before being declared dead by doctors. The family members of the deceased fish trader, however, had claimed that the police demanded Rs 10,000 and a duck as a bribe for his release, and his wife visited the police station with a duck on Saturday morning.

When she returned with the money later, she learnt that her husband had been taken to Nagaon Civil Hospital. After reaching there, she found him dead, they claimed.

Alleging that the man died of torture, villagers gheraoed the police station, allegedly assaulted on-duty personnel and then torched the building. Videos of the incident showed a woman sprinkling some inflammable liquid on two-wheelers parked in front of the police station and setting them on fire. The blaze engulfed the police station soon after and fire tenders had to be called to douse it. Meanwhile, a former AIUDF MLA, Anowar Hussain Laskar has filed a complaint with the Assam State Human Rights Commission over the death of Islam.

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