In an incident that shook the Internet and visuals of which went viral on social media in minutes, two policemen from Assam’s Chirang district were seen assaulting a journalist after the latter questioned the policemen’s act of riding around on a two-wheeler without helmets.
The policemen’s action garnered severe flak and led to massive outrage. The Assam Police has expressed regret over the “altercation” and assured that “appropriate action” was undertaken against the two policemen.
The victim, Jayanta Debnath works for a local news organisation and is currently being treated at a hospital in Bongaigaon.
“I had spotted the two policemen on a two-wheeler without a helmet and just asked them how can they expect the public to obey traffic rules when they themselves are not following it,” Debnath stated.
“They started hurling abuses at me, which made me stop my scooter and question them why they were behaving in such a manner. Suddenly, they started hitting me and they didn’t stop even when I repeatedly told them that I am a journalist,” he added.
Debnath, who also presides over the Chirang District Press Club as its general secretary, claimed that he was escorted to the Basugaon police station in a vehicle by another policeman. The officer-in-charge did not pay heed to his complaints of the series of abuses and threats he was subjected to.
“I finally left the police station and went to a local hospital. As my injuries were severe and the pain was increasing, I got myself admitted at a hospital in Bongaigaon,” Debnath said.
“This police action on me is a reflection of the power given by the chief minister to them,” he stated.
Special DGP (Law and Order) GP Singh expressed regret over the incident and said that appropriate action will be taken.
He tweeted on February 7, “Reference altercation between a journalist and policemen at Basugaon, Chirang, SP @chirangpolice (Chirang Police) has been directed to take appropriate action against erring policemen. The incident is regretted and @assampolice (Assam Police) personnel are being adequately sensitized,” adding that the police personnel have been directed to strictly adhere to safety norms, on and off duty.
The Chirang Police have registered an FIR against the accused.
Congress leader Debabrata Saikia criticised the government’s apparent lack of initiative towards curbing such incidences.
“There has been an increase in police highhandedness ever since the BJP government under Himanta Biswa Sarma came to power,” he said.
“He (Sarma) has asked police to make encounters and firings a pattern, and since then, there have been more than 70 such cases in the last seven-eight months,” the Leader of Opposition claimed in the state assembly.
Saikia was referring to the deaths of 33 people and injuries to at least 72 others during police encounters.
Journalists staged a demonstration outside the Gauhati Press Club on February 8, while journalists in Chirang, Udalguri and Nagaon, among other places, also carried out similar protests.
The Journalists Union of Assam and Journalists’ Association of Assam, in separate statements, condemned the incident and urged the government to ensure the security of journalists in the state.