GUWAHATI: Amid opposition parties decrying the rising number of police encounters under the Himanta Biswa Sarma government, one more murder accused was killed and two alleged ganja smugglers were injured as they "attempted to escape from custody" in separate incidents in Assam on Saturday.
With the fresh casualties, at least 13 suspected insurgents and criminals have been killed and dozens, including rape accused and cattle smugglers, injured in police encounters in the northeastern state since the second BJP-led government assumed power two months ago.
The latest incidents took place in Chirang and Kokrajhar districts, both part of the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
A person accused of the murder of a home guard was killed while attempting to escape from police custody in Chirang district.
"Within 24 hrs Chirang Police cracked the case of brutal murder of Home Guard Eyad Ali.3 persons arrested & the murder weapons were recovered.
"In an attempt to flee from Police custody, escaping accused Abdul Khalek sustained bullet injuries and later succumbed to his injuries," Chirang district police tweeted.
In another incident, Kokrajhar district police intercepted a truck allegedly smuggling 840 kg of ganja worth over Rs 2 crore, at Srirampur near the Assam-West Bengal inter-state border.
"While recovering another 10 kg of ganja, which the accused had hidden along the highway, the duo attacked the police personnel & tried to escape from the custody.
"In order to prevent it, Police team resorted to control firing, in which both the accused were grievously injured," the Kokrajhar district police said in a Twitter post.
On July 6, a suspected drug peddler from Manipur was critically injured when he had allegedly tried to escape from police custody near Rani in Kamrup district.
The rising number of shoot-out encounters in the last two months has whipped up a political furore in Assam with the opposition alleging that the police has turned "trigger-happy" under the Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma-led regime, which assumed charge on May 10.
Justifying the series of encounters since he assumed power, Sarma had on July 5 said that shooting at criminals "should be the pattern" if they attempt to escape from custody or try to snatch guns from the police to fire at them.
State Congress chief Ripun Bora has said that Sarma's statement has dangerous ramifications of turning Assam into a 'police state' by making law enforcers trigger-happy and disregard human rights.
Raijor Dal chief and Sibsagar MLA Akhil Gogoi has also alleged that "open killing" by the police is going on in the name of encounters.
Assam Jatiya Parishad general secretary Jagadish Bhuyan has alleged that the surge in encounters was a ploy to "silence" the lower-rung criminals to protect their bosses, including politicians and top police officers, running illegal syndicates.
The BJP, on the other hand, wondered whether the opposition parties were unhappy that criminals had died.