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12 kidnappings a day makes Assam a scary place


wasbir hussain
Executive Director, CDPS & Visiting Fellow, IPCS

An Assamese oil executive working in Nigeria has told me some fascinating stories—when he goes out of his fortified, electric–fenced work–plus–stay campus to the capital city or towns nearby on work, he is made to board bullet–proof Toyotas and driven off with pilot and escort cars, manned by Kalashnikov–wielding security men. And when he visits an office outside his campus, the accompanying security men encircle that premises until he comes out and gets into his car. Almost the same drill is followed when the executives and their spouses make their once–in–a–month trip to a shopping mall outside their campus.

This because the Boko Haram and other terror militia gangs in parts of Nigeria have perfected the art of kidnapping for ransom, and the authorities there are bent on foiling the rebels’ bid as far as possible. Efforts as these have boosted the morale of foreign workers who still go to work in Nigeria.

Assam too is in the grip of kidnapping for ransom by one and sundry militant outfits or armed gangs, making the Congress–ruled State a scary place to be in. According to figures placed in the Assam Assembly this week, there have been 15,689 kidnappings in the State from 2011 till July 2014. That makes it 12 kidnappings a day on an average! Note this piece of statistics—from January to July this year, Assam witnessed 3261 abductions. This makes it an average of 15 abductions a day. A senior minister in the Tarun Gogoi Cabinet reeled out these figures in the House as if they were some great success stories!

This is not all. Other figures confirm the security or law and order situation in the State is indeed bleak. From 2011 to July 2014, there have been 4984 murders, 6585 rape incidents, 3960 extortion demands, 35,565 thefts, 983 robberies and 96 explosions in the State. If we look at this year’s break–up, from January to July, Assam witnessed 876 murders, 1202 rape incidents, 680 extortion cases, 7129 thefts, 158 dacoities and 12,168 incidents of crime against women.

One does not need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that this scenario is the result of the failure and lack of direction of not just the Assam Police but the State Home Department as well, besides the political leadership heading this critical Department. The figures have also exposed the utter casual manner in which the Home Department is being run and where most measures are nothing but immediate fire–fighting measures without focus and vision.

Ever since the ULFA insurgency started giving sleepless nights to the administrators in Assam, starting the nineties, one has been hearing of New Delhi providing crores of rupees for police modernization in Assam. Today, almost 25 years down the line, one learns from figures placed in the State Assembly that 14,356 or around 20 per cent of the 75,559 sanctioned posts in the Assam Police are lying vacant.

Forget what the Opposition MLAs had told the House, a statement by Bhupen Bora, Congress MLA from Sonitpur district and a known Gogoi loyalist, came as a shock. Bora, while apprising the House of the ‘disturbing situation’ along the Assam–Arunachal Pradesh border, said the Assam Police is facing an acute mobility problem. “There is hardly any vehicle in running condition in the police stations in the area,” Bora said. Statements as these have raised a big question mark on the whole talk of the presumed police modernization in Assam, something that actually calls for a thorough probe by a central agency or even a House Committee.

More statistics had been placed in the Assam Assembly this week, leading to more questions being raised on the state of law and order in the State. Since 2012, there have been half–a–dozen ethnic riots in the Bodo Council area, leading to the death of scores of innocent people. While everyone agree the easily availability of illegal weapons in the area is the cause behind the heavy casualty, the State Government said it was able to seize 289 illegal weapons from the area from 2012 to July 2014. Agitated outbursts and forceful pleas by the Opposition has led to Speaker Pranab Gogoi asking the State Government to table a statement before the House on its time–bound plan to seize illegal arms from the Bodo Council area. Opposition MLAs have also expressed their anguish at the arrest of only 12 people so far for the latest bout of killing in the Baksa–Kokrajhar area in May that took nearly 50 lives. On the whole, a dismal scenario that smacks of total lack of accountability.

(courtesy: The Sentinel)