Assam Police said on Monday that it will book five out of the six accused in setting fire to the Batadrava Police Station in the Nagaon district of the state under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on suspicions of them having terror links.
The wife and minor daughter of Safiqul Islam, a local fish trader whose custodial death led to the protests, are among those arrested in the arson case on Saturday.
The Nagaon superintendent of police (SP) Leena Doley was quoted by Indian Express as saying, “In the video footage, both the wife and the daughter can be seen setting fire to the police station. The others arrested are also relatives.”
The minor has been detained under Juvenile Justice rules and is being treated as a child in conflict with the law, said Doley.
She said that three cases have been registered after the incident, one on the unnatural death of Safiqul in custody, one case of arson for torching the police station and a UAPA case as the police suspect the accused to have terror links.
The first two cases have been registered at Batadrava police station, while the UAPA case was registered under Dhing police station under the jurisdiction of which fall the accused people.
Doley said, ““We have been informed about many criminal activities of the accused persons…we suspect (they have) terror links, too, and have got in touch with the police in Barpeta and Bongaigaon districts to confirm whether any of them are linked to the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT).”
It may be noted that the ABT is a banned terrorist organization based in Bangladesh. Assam Police has arrested at least 10 people in Barpeta and Bongaigaon districts allegedly for having links to ABT.
The case is under probe by the NIA. Doley said on Saturday that the mob had come prepared to attack the police station.
She said, “While there was an element of reactive response following the death, there is more to it, considering the intensity and force of the attack. There were several instigators and we are identifying them all.”
“We are probing his death too,” she said while speaking further on the death of Safiqul.
Meanwhile, opposition leaders from All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Congress criticized the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led state government after visiting the village.
AIUDF MLA Ashraful Hussain said that the incident reflected the failure of the police as he demanded a judicial inquiry. He said, “We demand that every perpetrator of this incident be brought to book and punished following due process of law.”
In addition, Trinamool Congress state president Ripun Bora asked, “What’s the court and the Constitution for if police are allowed to abuse the law with such impunity? Why is the law not allowed to take its own course? Is it BJP Raj or Hitler Raj?”
Following Saturday’s mob violence and arson, the authorities demolished homes of those who had allegedly set fire to the police station on Sunday. This included Safiqul’s home. According to police, the accused were “encroachers” and were staying on government land with forged documents.
Safiqul was arrested on Friday night after police found him allegedly inebriated. Police claim he died since he was unwell, however, Safiqul’s family has alleged that police demanded Rs 10,000 and a duck as bribe to release him, and beat him up in custody which resulted in his death.