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Did the bulletproof jacket fail to save Bordumsa OC Bhaskar Kalita?

The recent death of Bordumsa OC Bhaskar Kalita has opened up an array of questions regarding the safety of the state police forces on duty.

The young police officer lost his life on 4th May 2018 when he was shot down by United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) during a gun battle with the Assam Police and CoBRA unit of the CRPF. The gun battle occurred near the Assam-Arunachal border in Tinsukia district on the night of 4th May when some new recruits of the ULFA(I) taking shelter in a village of the forest area were intercepted by a joint team of Assam Police and CoBRA unit of the CRPF.

Bhaskar, who was a part of the joint team of police and CRPF received bullet injuries to his chest inspite of wearing a bulletproof vest during the encounter. Two puncture holes were noticed on Bhaskar’s bulletproof vest, one on his chest and the other on his abdominal region. Both the bullets were able to puncture through the vest and enter his body that led to his death. The shocking factor here is how the bulletproof vest failed to provide any safety while taking a direct hit.  A lot of other factors also come into play while determining the safety provided by a bulletproof vest. It is yet to be ascertained the distance from which the bullets were fired and what calibre of ammun ition was used to shoot Bhaskar Kalita. Reports also claim that ULFA(I) cadres that were engaged in the gun battle were seen using Israeli made Tavor X95 bullpup guns that fire 5.56 NATO ammunition. The 5.56 NATO ammunition are capable of piercing armor if shot from a close range.

It is interesting to note that the Tavor x95 guns are actively used by the CoBRA unit of the CRPF who were also a part of the joint team with Assam Police on the night of the shootout with the cadres of ULFA(I). Question also arises on the quality of the vest that was worn by Bhaskar Kalita on that ill-fated night.

According to reports, the last procurement of bulletproof vests for Assam Police was done in the year 2012. The Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) of India had already warned Dispur on the efficiency of the bulletproof jackets in the year 2009 when the vests procured were inadequate for Assam which is a state classified as category "A" in terms of militant activities.

There are three major kinds of vests available in the market – ballistic protection vests, edged blade protection vests and spike protection vests. The vests in use by the armed forces and state police in frontlines and active duty are those which are made to provide protection against ballistic threats. But the vest worn by Bordumsa OC Bhaskar Kalita which was supposed to stop bullets, richochet and shrapnels was clearly a ballistic protection vest but failed to protect Bhaskar during the time of emergency. Following the incident, Assam’s Additional Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna will be heading a probe ordered by Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal regarding the quality of bulletproof jackets in use by the Assam Police.

CM Sonowal said, "The allegations on the quality of bulletproof vests will be probed. I have already ordered an inquiry into the whole incident leading to the death of OC Bhaskar Kalita. Kumar Sanjay Krishna will probe into the matter and will submit a report to me."

Only proper investigation into the matter will reveal what exactly led to the death of a young police officer inspite of wearing protective bulletproof vest during the encounter with ULFA(I) at Assam-Arunachal border in Tinsukia district.

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Ankur Kalita