GUWAHATI: A suspected supari (betel nut) smuggler was injured in a police encounter in Bongaigaon district when he tried to escape from custody, officials said on Wednesday.
With the latest number, at least 15 suspected militants and criminals were shot dead in police encounters in the state since May as they reportedly tried to snatch service weapons or attempted to escape from custody, while 25 others were injured.
Senior police officials in Bongaigaon said that the alleged supari smuggler was nabbed in Golaghat and was brought to Bongaigaon on Monday.
"Yesterday, he took us to show his godown storing illegal supari. While returning, the police stopped at a place to have some tea. At that moment, the accused tried to escape and a scuffle broke out," a senior official told PTI.
The police at first fired one round in the air to stop him, but the accused was still trying to flee, police said.
"Left with no option, our team fired him on the leg. He was sent to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital for treatment. In the scuffle, two of our police officials were also injured and were treated in hospital in Bongaigaon," the senior officer said.
The rising number of shoot-outs has whipped up a political furore with the opposition alleging that the Assam police has turned "trigger-happy" and is indulging in "open killings" under the Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma-led regime, which assumed charge on May 10.
Unfazed by criticism of his government over recent encounter killings, Sarma on July 15 had said in Assam Assembly that the state police has "full operational liberty" to fight against the criminals within the ambit of law.
On the previous day too, the chief minister told the assembly that the Assam police would retaliate against criminals trying to snatch service weapons of its personnel and attacking them or fleeing from their custody, thereby defending the series of encounters in the last more than two months.
At the first ever face-to-face meeting with the Officers In-Charge (OCs) of all police stations of Assam on July 5, Sarma had said that shooting at criminals "should be the pattern" if they attempt to escape from custody or try to snatch arms from the police to fire at them.
Taking suo moto cognisance, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on July 7 asked the state government to institute an enquiry into the circumstances that led to the death and injury of the accused in police encounters over the past two months.
Earlier, a New Delhi-based lawyer from Assam, Arif Jwadder, had filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the Assam police for the series of encounters that have taken place since Sarma took over on May 10.