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 Indian youth hailing from the northeastern state of Assam.
Partha Protim Boruah, 24, had a miff with police personnel at one the city’s regular check points on February 12 after he enquired with the cops, if without presence of a sub-inspector ranked official they have 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. Infact only after obliging with the cop’s direction, I queried,” said Partha.
This apparently irked 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 was disseminating live video feeds on Facebook. “I was very politely pacifying the constable but all throughout his behavior was utter rude and rowdy, so I decided to videograph the incident with my mobile phone,” Partha added.
He further added that the particular 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 cladded in a proper
uniform which seemingly is a violation of the uniform conducts. This was another reason I decided to go ahead with the video,” said Partha.
Within a span of few hours the video started going viral and gripped the entire state, which has now crossed over one million views and has been shared over seventeen thousand times. By evening the video was the talking point of all vernacular news channels which seemingly prompted the police to initiate actions. A suo moto First Information Report (FIR) was lodged under sections of IPC 294 and 353, and on February 14 Partha was arrested. He was produced before the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate the same day where the police sought his custody but declining the request the court sent him to 15-day judicial custody. He was however granted bail on February 17 by the Hon’ble Guwahati High Court.
Partha’s legal advisor Mr. Sohail Mafiz mentioned this as 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 wilfully 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, Mr. Hiren Chandra Nath giving contradictory statements to press has further raised questions on the intentions of city police. Briefing the media on the entire fiasco Mr. Nath said 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,” Mr. 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 also all throughout the video Partha was seen holding his helmet.
Furthermore, though the Commissioner of Police repeatedly mentioned about the presence of a sub-inspector ranked police official at the spot, but in that entire video of about five minutes, he never stepped in or was nowhere to be seen. “These are just concocted versions from Mr. Hiren Chandra Nath after Assam Police is left red faced. If the sub-inspector was in 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 of that category, offences under POCSO Act and such other offences, 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 website.
When asked about his further course of actions Partha refrained from speaking much as the matter being subjudice. “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 questions.
Meanwhile, a lot of support have gathered for Partha from all across Assam. While he was interrogated at the police station hundreds of people primarily youth gathered around the police station 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. Clarifying that such alertness on part of police is indeed good for public safety another protester said: “We are not against public safety and infact support the police in every possible way to perform their duty, but such atrocity and display of power on common man who are meant to be protected cannot be tolerated.”
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.
Independent Journalist | PG International Journalism,
University of Sussex, England