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Human rights group, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), on Tuesday alleged that there was “criminal dereliction of duty” on the part of the army in containing the recent Assam riots. It demanded that the Prime Minister order an enquiry into the “refusal by the Army to be deployed in the riot affected areas” and take “disciplinary action” against those found guilty.
“The refusal of the Army to be deployed directly led to increased loss of lives, displacement and consequent spread of hatred in the country. Both under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 wherein the Army operates in aid of civil power and the Sections 130 and 131 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the army is legally bound to obey the orders of the civilian authorities. By the time the Army moved in on 25 July 2012, about 44 persons were killed and over 2,00,000 people were displaced. There must be accountability for such criminal dereliction of duty,” said Suhas Chakma, director of ACHR, while speaking to media persons on the accession of releasing its report, “Assam Riots: Preventable but not prevented”. Chakma claimed ACHR’s report had been prepared following visit by researchers of the group in the affected areas in July and August.
Further, Chakma alleged that Assam government failed to deploy its 27,595 State Armed Police in the riot affected areas. The Assam government did not deploy the central para-military forces at its command and instead waited for the central government to instruct West Bengal and Meghalaya to send para-military forces.
“The recent riots in Assam were absolutely preventable but not prevented because of the criminal dereliction of duty by officials starting from the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Kokrajhar police station to the highest authorities of India’s military establishment, that is secretary to the ministry of defence, chief of the Army staff, director general military operations and the commander of the eastern command,” said Chakma.
The report of ACHR also stated that “had the four Bodo tribal youths not been lynched by a mob belonging to the Muslims after being snatched from the custody of a police party on 20 July 2012, the riots would not have started in the first place.”The report was also critical of the assessment of National Commission of Minorities (NCM) and termed it as “distorting and misinterpreting facts” and interpretation of the riots” along communal lines.” “Apart from the report being biased and self-contradictory, it inexplicably failed to include its member from the North East,” the report added.
The Assam riots, which started on July 20 in Kokrajhar, soon spread to other Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) of Baksa, Chirang, and Udalgiri, and neighbouring Dhubri and Bongaigaon districts and claimed around 100 lives and displaced over 4,00,000 people.