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Assam: Businessman alleges extortion, says police threatened to kill him, slap ‘jihadi link’; IPS officer among 5 cops held

Nine people, including senior police officers in Assam’s Bajali district, were arrested by the state crime investigation department (CID) after a local businessman alleged that he was being extorted by police.

Rabiul Islam, the businessman, alleged, among other things, that he was wrongfully detained by police and told to pay Rs 2.5 crore, failing which he would be killed in an encounter and his killing would be justified by concocting “links with Pakistani and Bangladeshi jihadi elements”. In his complaint, Islam said the threats were made by a man who claimed to be an “encounter specialist”.

On Monday, the Assam Police arrested Siddhartha Buragohan, a 2014 batch IPS officer who had been Bajali Superintendent of Police before being transferred two days ago to Assam Police Headquarters. Deputy Superintendent of Police (HQ) Pushkal Gogoi, Additional Superintendent of Police Gayatri Sonowal, her husband Subhas Chander, Sub-Inspector Debajit Giri, and constable Injamamul Hassan were also arrested. The three others arrested were one Kishore Baruah, and police drivers Nabir Ahmed and Dipjoy Kalita.

Assam DGP G P Singh said on Friday that after police received the complaint of money being demanded by Bajali police officers, the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption “was directed to lay a trap but didn’t succeed since the police officers (accused) were careful”. However, he said that the FIR was registered because the complaint was found to be “prima facie true”.

“Lawful action is being taken. As always, we remain committed to relentless, ruthless action against corrupt practices,” he said.

On August 31, based on a complaint by Islam, the Assam CID registered an FIR under multiple IPC sections, including those pertaining to attempt to murder, causing fear of death for extortion, criminal intimidation, wrongful confinement and criminal conspiracy. The six accused named in the FIR were Buragohain, Sonowal, Gogoi, Giri, and two other police personnel – Arnab Jyoti Patir, officer in charge of Patacharkuchi police station, and Sasanka Das, an ASI from Bhabanipur outpost.

In his complaint, Islam alleged that the intimidation began on July 16 when police personnel stormed into his family home at around 1.30 am, dragged him out and began asking him about “drugs and cash”, which he said he knew nothing about.

He said in the complaint that police officers then punched and kicked him “for at least two to three hours”, searched his house without a warrant, and took a number of belongings. Then, they took him and two of his relatives to the Bhabanipur police station where they were detained, he said.

Around noon the next day, he alleged, he was taken to the SP’s residence where the SP interrogated him on where he had kept the “illegal articles”. In the course of the interrogation, he was allegedly assaulted multiple times by the police officer. After that, he was taken back to the police station where he was assaulted multiple times again and told to “cooperate”, he alleged. Police also allegedly searched both his office and his father-in-law’s home that day.

Late that night, the officer in charge of Bhabanipur police station put him inside a vehicle in which there also were two persons in civilian clothes and one in police uniform, he said in the complaint, adding that he was then taken to a detergent factory.

“They asked me to run, and they told me that they are going to shoot me with their handguns as per directions of the Director General of Police, Assam,” he alleged in the complaint.

“At that time, another person who came down from another car, which was following us, came near me and told me in Hindi to accept that I have links with jihadi elements and I have illegally acquired all my properties,” he said.

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When he refused to do that, he alleged, the person “took out one hand gun and tried to shoot me and demanded an amount of Rs 2.5 crore from me. He told me that he is an encounter specialist and if I do not pay the said amount, he will kill me and the police will show it is an encounter by showing that I have links with Pakistani and Bangladeshi jihadi elements,” he alleged in the complaint.

He alleged that he was taken to the police station when he agreed to the monetary demands. He claimed that he paid Rs 10 lakh in cash and that his mother issued 21 cheques for Rs 10 lakh each from her bank account. However, he alleged that he was still not released and that ASP Gayatri Sonowal demanded another Rs 2.5 crore from him. This demand, he said, was “made in the chamber of officer-in-charge of Bhabanipur outpost”. The inspector in charge of Bhabanipur outpost is Debojit Giri.

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He was then let go, but the threat of “encounter” if he did not pay the amount continued to loom over him, he said. From July 31 onwards, two people claiming to be close associates of the SP began calling his family members and demanding that the amount be sent to the SP directly, he alleged.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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