Arup Jyoti Das
Extra judicial killing is not new in Northeast India. This part of the country has a brutal past, a sad narrative full of stories of both state and non-state atrocities which many would not like to hear. However, when things become distant past, we tend to forget them- particularly, when memories are brutal, associated with sorrows and public by nature. Public memory is always short, especially when it involves tragic events. As time passes, an incident becomes a day in the calendar, which often gets lost in the chaos of many “Days”- international days, national days, state days and many more. With time, tragedies become personalised and become a burden or memory only to those who are either family or closed one of the victims.
And if a particular incident doesn’t have any political significance it has to remain as a personal narrative, not a public one. One day it will add to the data sheet of some web portal which keeps records of insurgency activities.
Man wants to move on, ‘wants’ by nature, happiness and prosperity. “Positive vibes” is the new slogan now. We are encouraged to make peace with the past and move on. Unfortunately, in the context of the political past in Northeast India, even if we wish to bury our past, we cannot. We just cannot move on, whether to a Digital India or something else. The rude political present, which sometimes looks similar to the past will constantly remind us of our brutal past. The recent killing of Jayanta Bora in Assam is one such incident which reminds us of our brutal political past. At midnight, Sunday, June 15, Jayanta Bora, a resident of Kakodonga village, in the Jorhat District of Assam was picked up by a joint team of Indian Army (244 Field Regiment) and Assam state police for interrogation linking him to ULFA, the banned outfit. Shockingly, 23-year-old Jayanta, who was perusing his graduation, was declared dead on arrival later at the Jorhat Medical College Hospital (JMCH). According to news reports, his mother pleaded with the joint team not to pick up Jayanta at midnight as he would be reporting at the police station early morning, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. According to a Guwahati based media, “sources have informed that the student was first tortured by the army. After more than one and a half hours of torture, Jayanta was handed over to Borholla police, where he was subjected to further torture. Dark injury marks could be seen on the boy’s body, near his ear, on his private parts and other parts of the body”.
Any civilized and democratic society would felt ashamed of such brutality. It should be noted that later both security forces and Assam Police admitted that Jayanta was innocent and was killed by mistake. Can two responsible Govt. bodies associated with the country’s security and dignity afford to commit such mistakes (crime?) and remain unaccountable?
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which is in effect in Northeast India (most parts) empowers Indian security forces with impunity for which they can even kill civilians on mere suspicion and remain unaccountable. This is a situation which can be described as “too much power without any responsibilities”. This is why the Indian Army is always loved with hesitation and fear in this part of the country. The people of Northeast India have seen the dark side of the Indian Army, as well as the State Police forces. In the past, many like Jayanta Bora has died in extra judicial killing in Northeast India. Look at the irony! We mourn when an Indian Army soldier from Northeast India dies while saving the nation, and we also mourn when a Northeast Indian is killed by Indian soldiers. Either way, only our people are dying.
However, while criticizing the Indian Army, we need to remember that they are the victim of a Govt. Act and policy where they are forced to act as the enemy of the civilians. Good deeds of the Army in disasters and other crises should not be discredited. For such work, they have always earned respect from the public. We must clearly understand that it is not the Indian Army that has killed Jayanta and the hundred others like him, but an act like AFSP(A), which was democratically passed in the parliament.
Such an incident surely poses a question mark to the process of national integration- Why in 2020, after 70 years of independence and during the rule of a nationalist government, innocent people are still getting tortured and killed by Indian security forces in the Northeast? For the sake of our beloved country, we need to find an answer to this.
(This appeared earlier in Northeast Today)