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Damning disclosures

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  26 May 2017 12:00 AM GMT

The trading of graft charges among some Assam Police officials lately threatens to leave the image of the force in tatters. The damning allegations and counter-allegations have now pushed the State government into fire-fighting mode. The ADGP heading the Special Task Force has been transferred while the officer-in-charge of Bharalumukh police station in Guwahati has been handed suspension orders. There may be more action by the Home department in the coming days to limit the fallout, but the entire chain of events relating to primarily three cases raise some disturbing questions. In one case, a garage owner in Gorchuk area of the city was hauled up by an STF team accusing him of oil theft, taken to STF headquarters and released after a few hours. The garage owner then lodged a complaint at Gorchuk police station, alleging that the STF team had demanded Rs 10 lakh to let him go free, and that he filly bargained his release for Rs 4 lakh which his family maged by pawning off some assets. As Gorchuk police swung into action, the STF members absconded. After the sub-inspector, who had led the STF team, was arrested from Dhubri, other members of her team too were bbed. Some of these STF policemen are now learnt to have complained that they have been falsely implicated by a section of Gorchuk police station officials, who are allegedly in cahoots with oil thieves and get regular monthly payoffs. In another case, vigilance and anti-corruption sleuths recently caught a sub-inspector of Boko police station red-handed, extorting a bribe of Rs 50,000 from a Guwahati-based sand merchant; later, the officer-in-charge of Boko PS was also arrested in the same case. The sub-inspector, meanwhile, is said to have lamented before the sand merchant’s wife that he was collecting money on behalf of some seniors in Boko PS, who in turn ‘had to make monthly payment of Rs 20 lakh to the STF chief’. The modus operandi of these rogue cops was to arrest targets, slap various charges on them, then demand huge sums for their release from lockup. In yet another case, the officer-in-charge of Bharalumukh police station who had been transferred on charges of ‘tacit involvement’ in some theft cases, complained before media-persons that he had been ‘made a scapegoat’. He in turn med two senior city police officials for often demanding payoffs from him. Such allegations levelled by cops against their own, mostly under full media glare, should be taken seriously. These reveal a sinister pattern — of police power rampantly misused by rogue cops to extort money from lawbreakers, either actual miscreants or those trapped and framed. The ‘collection’ is then funnelled upwards to keep corrupt seniors happy. This in effect means a syndicate operating in uniform, taking full advantage of its position as official law enforcer to extort ‘rent’. Assam Police chief Mukesh Sahay has rightly said that merely ming some police officials and levelling graft charges against them in no way implies corruption in the force. Such accusations need to be backed by irrefutable evidence. It is also true that honest policemen can be obstructed in their duty by motivated allegations, leaving their careers damaged. Since Assam Police at present is being buffeted by allegations raised by its own, its higher-ups should introspect and seek to restore morale in the ranks. As for the State government, any knee-jerk attempt to hush up the matter rather than ensuring a clean police administration over the long term, will be an opportunity sadly lost.

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