Guwahati/Nagaon, Jun 10 (PTI) The death of a 23-year-old man in Assams Nagaon district has triggered a controversy with locals alleging that the man died of police beating after he was found playing cricket during curfew hours, and the law enforcers claiming that he was involved in a gambling racket and had jumped into a pond after spotting a police patrol.
The incident led to a clash between villagers and the police in front of Rupahihat police station, following which the force had to fire in the air and lob tear gas shells, an officer said.
Nagaon Superintendent of Police Anand Mishra said the incident took place at Gorematikhoa village under Rupahihat police station on Wednesday and a post-mortem report has confirmed that the man died of drowning only.
The victim, identified as Shoiab Akhtar, hailed from Solmari village and was the sole bread earner of his family, locals said.
Condemning the alleged 'police atrocity', Rupahihat Congress MLA Nurul Huda and Dhing AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam have demanded an impartial inquiry and punishment of the 'accused policeman who had beaten the man to death'.
After visiting the victms house, the All Assam Minority Students' Union (AAMSU) general secretary Minnatul Islam too condemned the 'police action' and demanded an impartial inquiry, besides seeking proper compensation for the family members.
Speaking to PTI, the Nagaon SP said, 'The OC led a team from Rupahihat police station after getting information of a betting racket. The place was not motorable and police were walking towards the village. Seeing them, the group fled and some of them jumped in a nearby pond.' The police did not chase them and left the village as they could not nab any of the gamblers on the spot, said Mishra, who is camping at Rupahihat since Wednesday night.
'In the evening, the police station got a call from the Rupahihat Model Hospital that a man was brought dead to the hospital. Our team reached the facility and faced a mob, which had already broken glass panes of the building and damaged other properties,' Mishra said.
He claimed that the body was fished out of the water body by the locals and not by police as per some media reports.
'After that, they brought the body, came to Rupahihat police station, and gheraoed it. We immediately asked the nearby Juria police station OC for assistance and the Additional SP rushed there. The mob, which swelled to 1,000- 1,500, started pelting the police station with stones.
'The team had to resort to baton charge, lob tear gas shells and fire in the air to disperse the mob. Three policemen sustained injuries and several vehicles and other properties were damaged,' Mishra said.
The police registered a case and have arrested two persons, the SP said.
Three others have been detained for allegedly instigating the crowd to attack the police, he added.
'We have also registered a case of murder against the people who brought the body to the hospital to find the truth.
The police have no role in his death,' the SP said.
Locals said that a police team had chased some people who were playing cricket on Wednesday afternoon violating the ongoing curfew due to the pandemic.
'Suddenly noticing the police, the people fled from the spot and some jumped into the water of Rupahi Beel (lake). The police also resorted to lathi-charge. Unfortunately, one of the men failed to flee and police beat him badly on his head and legs,' a local said on condition of anonymity.
The man jumped into the lake to save himself, but he could not swim and drowned, he claimed.
'Later, the locals with the help of police recovered the victim's body from the lake. The body had several injury marks,' another villager said.
When the Nagaon SP reached the spot, the family members and villagers demanded justice and sought punishment of the guilty policemen for allegedly 'killing the man'.
Assuring them of justice, the SP appealed to eyewitnesses to come forward and record their statements at the Rupahihat police station without any fear.
'We have got statements of a few eyewitnesses in the case. They have stated that the police did not beat them. We are not leaving any loopholes and carrying out a proper investigation,' the SP said. PTI TR COR MM MM