CID to Probe Arrest of Dhubri Scribe Amid Heightened Fears of Press Safety
The arrest of a local journalist of Dhubri, Rajib Sarma, who has been reporting on illegal cattle smuggling to Bangladesh has raised questions within the media fraternity as various journalist organizations in Assam have asked Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to undertake an investigation into the matter.
Sarma was arrested at 2 am on July 16 from his residence in Gauripur by Dhubri Police on grounds of extortion and obstructing public servants from carrying out their duty on the basis of an FIR filed by Biswajit Roy, a Divisional Forest Officer posted at Dhubri.
The reporter was reporting on cattle smuggling rackets between Assam and Bangladesh which were allegedly supported by both the police and government officials.
"It was their internal matter that had not been brought to our notice, which I also got to know day before yesterday. If a person is not doing his work properly and there are a lot of reports about him, which we had already communicated to the government long back; about a couple of months already, immediate action should have been taken which is done,” said AM Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF).
“He has been transferred to Guwahati and there was a departmental inquiry. Our honourable CM had also ordered an inquiry," added the senior forest official of Assam.
Media fraternity files appeal with Gauhati High Court
“A media organization has filed an appeal with Gauhati High Court and the case is said to have been handed over to the CID. The journalist, Rajib Sarma, is currently out on bail as per the information that we have received,” said Sanjoy Roy, General Secretary of the Guwahati Press Club.
“We just want the investigation into the entire matter to be done in an impartial manner,” added Sanjoy Roy.
“Rajib Sarma is our scribe who has been covering the news for several months about this cattle smuggling syndicate in Dhubri and on July 12 he covered news about involvement of the Dhubri DFO Biswajit Roy and a Superintendent of Police, Yuvraj Singh who have now been transferred,” said Dr. Kumud Das, Joint Editor of DY365, a local TV channel.
Rajib had asked the DFO for an interview which he refused to give and instead offered our journalist tens of thousands of rupees which Sarma refused to take. After this incident, Biswajit Roy, along with some senior police officials and syndicate members, conspired against him and he was then arrested from his home in the late night of July 15, according to Dr. Kumud Roy.
“A case has been filed by the Newspaper Association of India with National Human Rights Commission and Press Council of India. The relatives of Rajib Sarma have also filed a case in the Gauripur Police Station as the journalist’s father had suffered a stroke when he was taken from his house late in the night,” Roy added.
Rajib’s father, who was paralysed and bedridden, reportedly passed away from the stroke soon after learning of his son's arrest and was found dead by his neighbours the next morning.
Rajib Sarma is currently out on interim bail which has been extended till July 22 and investigation will now be done by the CID.
CID to conduct investigation
The investigation has been handed over to the Crime Investigation Department (CID) which will inquire into whether the arrest was wrongful and the Assam Police has also decided to constitute a Special Investigation Team SIT to investigate into allegations against Dhubri police’s hand in the nexus over the past two years.
“We have just received the order from the DGP's office that the case has been handed over to CID. We will be taking up the investigation,” said LR Bishnoi, Additional Director General of Police, CID.
“We have not yet visited Dhubri, since we have just received the formal order. We will now appoint a Special Investigating Officer who will then visit Dhubri," added the CID official.
Illegal trade between Dhubri and Bangladesh
The Dhubri district of Assam shares the international border with Bangladesh and is often used by smugglers to smuggle cattle and other goods.
During the month of April alone in this year, goods worth more than Rs 2.05 crores including cattle- 499 Nos, liquor 1,514 bottles , biri 2640 packets, betel nuts worth Rs.4.76 lakh in 150 cases were seized by the Border Security Force.
BSF troops also apprehended 36 persons including 23 Indian nationals and 13 Bangladeshi nationals for their involvement in these illegal trades.
Police Action against International Cattle Smuggling Racket in Dhubri
There have been several instances where racketeers have been arrested for smuggling cattle and other commodities across the border. In one such incident of prominence, on June 12 last, only days after Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had asked the state DGP to take action against the syndicates in Assam, the police had busted an international cattle smuggling racket and nabbed 16 persons within 48 hours for their alleged involvement in the racket.
The police seized at least 13 cattle that was kept to be smuggled into Bangladesh, stating that all the 16 persons have been nabbed from different locations in Dhubri district.