“Aao bachchon tumhein dikhaye jhanki Hindustan ki” (Come children, let’s show you the trailer of India)
On charges of murdering a 14-year old child in February this year, three Assam police officers were arrested on Monday. Former officer-in-charge of Bharalumukh police station, Uma Bora, sub-inspector Azizur Rahman and Tamizuddin Ahmed were arrested as an enquiry revealed that the child was killed after being beaten up in police custody.
On the night of February 10 this year, UTSAH, a Guwahati-based NGO for child rights received an anonymous call which informed them that a 14-year old child had died after being arrested by the police in Guwahati. Immediately, UTSAH’s founder Miguel Das Queah rushed to Bharalumukh police station to get a detailed report on the death. Child Welfare Police Officer (CWPO) Sudip Choudhury gave an account of the case. He said that following a theft on January 30, 2017, at a grocery store in the Bharalumukh area, Dhiraj Deka, owner of the store registered an FIR on January 31 at the Bharalumukh police station.
After a preliminary investigation by investigating officer Tamizuddin Ahmed, Bharalumukh police apprehended minor “A” (16 male). “A” on being interrogated admitted to the theft and named minor Raja Ali (14 male), minor “C” (13 male) and minor “D” (14 male) as his accomplices. Following the confession made by “A”, Bharalumukh police apprehended Raja and “C” late at 11:10 pm. However, on the same day “D” went missing and could not be arrested. The Bharalumukh police presented “A”, Raja and “C” before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), Kamrup (Metro) on February 7 at around 2:30 pm after they accepted committing the theft. The JJB observed a case of Child in Conflict of Law (CCL) and sent the minors to the Boko Observation Home for Boys, for reformation.
For further information after talking with the CWPO, Miguel called Hemi Bora, the then superintendent of the observation home for boys in Boko. According to Bora, after the order from JJB, Kamrup (Metro), the children were brought to the observation home late evening on February 7. Among the children, Raja Ali complained about uneasiness to the staff of the observation home on February 8. Next day, i.e, on February 9, Raja got admitted to Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) for treatment. In the early hours of February 10, Raja succumbed to his injury in the hospital. According to doctors, Raja was severely unwell and his organs had given up.
After talking with the station in-charge and Child Welfare Police Officer (CWPO) of the Bharalumukh police station, it came to light that the minors were kept the entire night (15 hours) at the police station which is a violation of Section 12(2) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015. According to the section, a child should be kept at an observation home before he is presented at the JJB. This section corresponds to Model Rule 9(6) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 which clearly mentions that if a child cannot be produced immediately to a JJB then the CWPO must keep the child at an observation home or a ‘fit facility’. Neither Childline nor District Child Protection Officer was informed regarding the arrest by the police.
UTSAH lodged a detailed complaint about the statutory deviation of the Bharalumukh Police to the Assam State Commision for the Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) on February 11. Local newspaper The Assam Tribune and The Telegraph published stories on February 12 following a Facebook status made by Miguel from his personal account giving details of the incident. Honourable Gauhati High Court after seeing the news on the papers Suo Motu initiated a PIL in mid-June of 2017. The court called for an enquiry to probe the matter and assistant commissioner of police Pranjal Bora was assigned to probe, who recently submitted the report which mentioned the police officers are guilty of Raja’s murder.
Bench of Honourable Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Honourable Justice, Monojit Bhuyan on September 20 said that the post-mortem reports revealed that the child died due to ante mortem injuries caused by blunt force impact and hence on the intervention of the court, the police have registered offences under Section 302/34 of Indian Penal Code at Bharalumukh Police Station vide Case No. 413/2017 against inspector Uma Bora, sub-inspector Azizur Rahman and sub-inspector Tamizuddin Ahmed (retired).
On October 16, 2017, an enquiry revealed that the child died after being beaten up by the three police officers. They were then arrested and sent to judicial custody till October 30, 2017. However, Miguel feels that the then CWPO Sudip Choudhury’s name has not even come up at any stage and he should also be arrested and punished as he was handling the case at that night.
Guwahati police commissioner, Hiren Nath while speaking to The Telegraph, said, “The deceased juvenile was taken to the police station for one night, which had violated the rule. On the basis of the post-mortem report and other evidence, it was found that three officials were responsible for his death.”
While speaking exclusively, Miguel said, “My stand throughout has been that The Police Officers had grossly violated, Section 10(ii), Section 75 and Model Rules 8(1) 8(3)(i)(ii)(iv)(v), 9(6) along with 69D of the Juvenile Justice(Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015. Raja’s soul must be at peace now. Sorry Raja, we couldn’t take good care of you on earth.” Miguel said that he is willing to train police officers across the country about the JJ Act and the system must respond to the need of care and protection of vulnerable children. This case should make the police more responsible and accountable.
Update: Investigating Officer SI (Retd.) Tamizuddin Ahmed died mysteriously in custody at the Guwahati central jail on Sunday. His family members are saying that former IC of Bharalumukh PS Uma Bora, who was also arrested is behind Ahmed’s murder.