Guwahati: At a time when streaming real time feeds through Facebook is setting new trends in mass communication, using the same for exposing police highhandedness resulted in incarceration for an Assam youth.
Partha Protim Boruah, 24, had a miff with police personnel at one of the city’s regular check posts on 12 February after he inquired with the cops, if without presence of a sub-inspector ranked official they had the legal authority to frisk vehicular documents?
“I am a law abiding member of public and I have every right to know how the system functions so I merely questioned but never restrained from producing the documents. In fact only after obliging with the cop’s direction, I queried,” said Partha.
This was enough to irk the cops and the situation turned sour when a personnel from Assam Police Battalion started manhandling Partha and eventually snatched away the keys of his motorbike.
However, little did they know that Partha had already begun disseminating live video feeds on Facebook.
“I was very politely pacifying the constable but all throughout his behavior was utterly rude and rowdy, so I decided to record the incident on my mobile phone,” Partha added.
He said that the police personnel from Assam Police Battalion, who snatched his keys was not wearing a badge displaying his name.
“I was really appalled when he snatched my keys. Also how would I know if he isn’t some bogus policeman for he was not even wearing a proper uniform. This was another reason I decided to go ahead with the Facebook Live,” said Partha.
Within few hours, the video went viral and caught the attention of the entire state. The video has now crossed over one million views and has been shared over 17,000 times. By evening the video was the talking point on all vernacular news channels, which seemingly prompted the police to initiate actions.
A suo moto FIR was lodged under sections of IPC 294 and 353, and on 14 February, Partha was arrested. He was produced before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate the same day, where the police sought his custody but the court declined the request and, instead, sent him to 15-day judicial custody. He was, however, granted bail on 17 February by Guwahati High Court.
Partha’s legal advisor, Sohail Mafiz, said that this was a deliberate attempt to harass him.
He is not a professional criminal nor is he involved in any organised crime, so why the police wanted his custody? They willfully wanted to intimidate him,” Sohail added.
Partha further disclosed that despite he being cooperative from the very first day, the police on the day of his arrest arrived with a huge contingent of armed personnel to his office.
“I went live again on Facebook when cops turned up at my office, seeing this one of the constables pounced at my phone, but thankfully everything is recorded,” Partha added.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police, Hiren Chandra Nath raised more questions on police’s intention when he told media that Partha was riding his motorbike without wearing a helmet which is visibly a violation of law and secondly when the police at the check post gestured him to stop he did not oblige and only stopped his vehicle meters away.
“The boy showed the tendency of a chronic violator of law so the constable had to snatch his keys to keep him halted until the arrival of a Sub-inspector,” Nath reiterated. The Commissioner of Police also added that Partha was abusive.
Dismissing the allegations of the Commissioner of Police as pale lies Partha said: “Firstly they never stopped me at the check post, after I had crossed the post I received a phone call and to answer it I deliberately stopped my motorbike. This is when the policeman came from behind and asked for my documents.”
Partha was firm with his stand that his helmet was on and only after stopping his motorbike he removed it to speak on the phone.
Interestingly, the FIR does not press any charges for traffic violation pertaining to not wearing a helmet.
Though the Commissioner of Police repeatedly mentioned about the presence of a sub-inspector ranked police official at the spot, but the five-minute-long video doesn’t show his presence.
“These are just concocted versions from Mr. Hiren Chandra Nath after Assam Police is left red faced. If the sub-inspector was on duty and never stepped in during the incident it clearly implies either he was absent from duty or the Commissioner or Police is peddling lies,” said Sohail Mafiz.
Also, as per guidelines set by the Supreme Court of India, copies of the FIRs, unless the offence is sensitive in nature, like sexual offences, offences pertaining to insurgency, terrorism and offences under POCSO Act, should be uploaded on the police website within 72 hours. However, ever after nearly a week Partha’s FIR copy is not yet available on Assam Police’s website.
When asked about his further course of actions Partha refrained from speaking much as the matter being sub-judice. “I am a young student who is studying and working part-time to make ends meet and because of few individuals my career now stand in perils. Is it such a severe crime to ask questions to a public servant,” he asked.
Partha, meanwhile is receiving plenty of support from across the state. While he was interrogated at the police station, hundreds of people primarily youth gathered outside to register their protest.
“We can relate to such atrocities by police. This is an everyday story where people are harassed on the pretext of security check,” said one of the protesters. C
It may be worthwhile to mention that a petition has been doing rounds on the internet calling for stringent actions against the commissioner of police and fixing responsibility on the officials for such high handedness.