GUWAHATI, March 28 (PTI): Asserting that death or injury of suspected criminals as they try to flee custody was ‘nothing new’ in the state, minister Pijush Hazarika told the Assembly on Monday that the police needed to act ‘tough’ to control crime.
Assam has witnessed a spurt in ‘police encounters’ since chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma assumed office on May 10, with the Opposition alleging that the police has turned ‘trigger happy’.
Defending police action on criminals trying to escape, the parliamentary affairs minister said, “There is no such word as ‘encounter’ in the Assam Police manual. If a criminal tries to escape or attack the police, they may get injured or killed.
“Death of criminals due to police action is not something new, it has happened in the past too,” Hazarika said, responding to a question by Opposition MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha.
He was replying on behalf of chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who also holds the Home portfolio
The police should always “act tough and ensure that crime is controlled”, the minister stated.
Crime rate has decreased by 30 per cent since May last year, when Sarma took charge, he claimed.
Hazarika further pointed out that action had been against police personnel, too, if found flouting rules.
Purkayastha had raised questions on the recurrence of ‘encounters’ in the state, and sought to know if there were any lacunae in police training that led criminals to routinely attempt an escape from custody.
Independent MLA Akhil Gogoi, in a supplementary question, claimed that the official figure of suspected criminals killed in police action since May last year was incorrect.
Hazarika, in his reply, said 29 people have been killed and 96 others injured during the period.
Gogoi, however, argued that a count was being kept, and the toll stood at 35.
The minister, on his part, noted that 75 have died in police action and two sustained injuries from 2016 to 2021.
To yet another question, he said a total of 1,628 personal security officers (PSOs) are currently attached to 941 people – 836 of them for 316 political leaders.
Of the 316 leaders, 14 are from the BJP, he said.
Acting on the chief minister’s appeal to leaders to forego PSOs, two BJP legislators, Rupjyoti Kurmi and Paramananda Rajbongshi, have given up their cover, Hazarika said.
Lok Sabha MP Rajdeep Roy has also forsaken his PSO cover, he maintained.
The chief minister himself has reduced his own security cover substantially, bringing down the number of vehicles in his convoy from 20-25 to 6-7, the minister added.