The midnight arrest of Pradip Brahma, legislator from Kokrajhar West, in connection with the recent ethnic clashes in the Bodoland districts has Bodo leaders of the region crying foul. Brahma, a Bodoland People's Front (BPF) member, is the first politician to be held for the violence which took place last month. While the police maintain that Brahma was arrested following several FIRs against him, leaders of several Bodo organisations smell a conspiracy to frame him.
Brahma was arrested from his residence at Dotoma near Kokrajhar town at 1am on Thursday. Seven cases are filed against the MLA from the Bodoland Peoples Front under sections 147, 149, 436, 427, 379, 148, 120B and 506 of the IPC. The sections under which Brahma has been booked include Section 120B (criminal conspiracy); Section 147 (rioting); Section 148 (rioting while armed with deadly weapons); Section 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house); and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) among others.
"The arrest was made on the basis of the statements of people which were recorded under section 164 of the CrPC before a magistrate. There are seven cases against him. These include burning of villages during the violence," Kokrajhar Additional Superintendent of Police Surjeet Singh Panesar told Firstpost over the phone. "He has been remanded to 14-day judicial custody," he added.
Theories of a political conspiracy started flying thick and fast soon after his arrest. Bodo leaders feel Brahma is being targeted.
"We hope the government would behave in a mature way. While the judicial and the CBI enquiries are still on what was the need to arrest Brahma on the basis of unverified FIRs?" All Bodo Students' Union chief Pramod Boro asked. "The onus of building peace depends on the administration. It has to involve the civil society and the common people. You must have already noticed that the arrest has led to the indefinite shutdown in Kokrajhar," he added.
Anjali Daimary, chairperson of the Bodo Justice Women's Forum, said the arrest without warrant was unacceptable. "The Assam Police has clearly violated the apex court directive regarding arrests. The government does not want peace in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD). The area was slowly returning to normalcy when this happened," she said. She suspected the role of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief Badruddin Ajmal behind the arrest. The AIUDF has been demanding the scrapping of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Council, which is run by Hagrama Mohilary, the chief of BPF.
"The Assam government does not want peace in the BTAD. This is a clear case of bias against the Bodos by the state government. Why is Brahma arrested on the basis of a few FIRs while Ajmal is roaming free?" Daimary asked. On the court premises today, the MLA had alleged that he was a victim of political conspiracy. "My arrest was planned by a political party," he said.
His advocate Sukmol Paharia defended Brahma, asking how a MLA who is with 20-22 bodyguards all the time, could go off and burn villages. "Why were the bodyguards not examined before the arrest was made?" he asked while speaking to Firstpost from Kokrajhar over telephone.
When contacted, Aditya Langthasa, ex-MLA and general secretary of AIUDF, declined to comment on the Daimary's statement. He said his party believed in the CBI and would wait for its investigation to be over. "Right now, the AIUDF’s priority is peace and normalcy in the violence-affected areas," he added. President of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), Sultan Alam, however, avoided making any comment.
"The CBI enquiry is already on. Let the agency finish it. Our first concern is members of both communities should return home quickly. The future of students would be dark otherwise," Alam said.