By Monjib Mochahari:
At a time when people are celebrating the success stories of BJP’s electoral victory across Assam, people in Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) area are witnessing a tense situation following an episode of public violence. On the early morning of May 30, 2016, around 4 a.m., a young tribal student, Sansuma Ramchiary, was tortured like a dreaded criminal by some localities on suspicion of theft at Harisinga in Udalguri district of Assam. At the time of writing this report, the situation in Harisinga was very tense.
The minor boy was out on his routine morning walk. Since it rained, he took shelter on the veranda of a shop in the market. A little later, the watchman alerted the locals about his suspicious presence. Immediately they surrounded him and accused him of stealing from a grocery store and took him to the nearby Raas field, where he was tied to a post, blindfolded and beaten until he became unconscious.
There is a similarity in the punishment meted out to Ramchiary for his mysterious ‘crime’ with what the Islamic State (ISIS) does in Syria. His body was slashed with blades and sharp razors. After that, the agitated mob slathered his body, including his eyes and ears with salt, lime and chilli powder. He was further beaten with wooden sticks and canes for hours. Some local witnesses to this inhuman acts said, “Blood spilt out of his bodies profusely. They put lime, salt and chilli powder in his eyes as a result of which he lost his eyesight. He begged for help for hours till he lost his consciousness.”
It is alleged that some police personnel were present at the time of the incident. They didn’t protect him; neither took him in custody nor made any effort to end the mob violence. Sansuma was simply left to die, beaten to the extent that he will never be the same again even if he regains his senses. The ordeal had continued for about three hours before he was handed over to the police in a critical condition.
The incident happened just a few hundred metres away from Harisinga Police Station. The place is familiar to me, and I am well aware of the situation here. People here have communal mindsets. In an earlier occasion, two Bodo youth met with a similar fate in the span of a year for unknown reasons. Sansuma Ramchiary is a Class IX student in Harisinga H.S. School, a popular school in the area. He is from Damdam area in Baksa district, but living with his brother-in-law in Towmari village (Niz Harisinga). He had been studying in Harisinga HS School since class VI. His family doesn’t enjoy a sound economic life because of which he is forced to navigate difficult situations.
A case under Sections 342/325/326 of the IPC and R/W 23 Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was lodged in the Harisinga Police Station. As per the FIR filed (FIR No. 41/16), dated May 30, 2016, by Praneswar Ramchiary, Sri Ratan Das (owner of the shop), Babul Das, Tupa Das and Mukut Das were involved in the crime – all residents of Harisinga town. Meanwhile, Anjan Das has been arrested in relation to the case while the rest are still at large even after three days of the incident.
Local residents and tribal organisations have been protesting since yesterday, demanding immediate arrest of the culprits. The All Bodo Students Union (Absu) has submitted a memorandum to the Udalguri deputy commissioner, demanding immediate arrest of all the accused. They also demanded compensation and medical assistance for the victim.
Ramchiary was first admitted to the Udalguri civil hospital but was later referred to Tezpur Medical College and Hospital. He is now in a critical situation undergoing treatment in the Tezpur Medical College and Hospital. Meanwhile, the locals have voiced an indefinite economic boycott of Harisinga until and unless the accused are brought to justice. But the question is – will the authority work? How long should people be allowed to take the law into their own hands? The bigger question is why an incident happening just a few hundred metres away from the local police station was not stopped at all? The inability of the police administration to catch the culprits has created a shadow of a doubt whether the family will ever get justice.
Harisinga is a small town mostly populated by Assamese, Koch Ragbongshi, Nepalese, Rabhas and Bodos. The place falls under Udalguri Legislative Assembly Constituency currently represented by Mr Rihon Daimary, who holds a cabinet portfolio in the newly formed BJP Government at Dispur.