Shillong, Oct. 3: Court-martialled Assam Rifles jawan Haider Ali fears for his life in the custody of the very force he has been part of.
“Mujhe yahan se hatane ki koshish kiya ja raha he (there are plans to shift me out of this place). I fear that I will be finished off and it will be passed off as a casualty during an encounter with the NSCN or any other militant group,” Haider told The Telegraph during a telephonic conversation.
He said he could be shifted from the 13th Assam Rifles Battalion’s base at Sansak in Ukhrul district of Manipur to the 21st Battalion’s camp near Kachin, along the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur.
This correspondent made contact with Haider through a source in the Assam Rifles, who clandestinely arranged for the rifleman to speak over the phone during his routine hourlong “free time” at the Sansak base.
Hyder was court-martialled on charges of using “criminal force” on a superior, not taking orders, violating military discipline and initiating a signature campaign. The rifleman’s first run-in with his bosses was in 1997, when he defied his commandant’s order to shave off his beard and led a signature campaign against service conditions in the force. He wrote to former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and the home and defence ministers.
Haider’s court martial began after his arrest on January 16.
The incarcerated rifleman contacted his lawyer, Raghvendra Jha, in Shillong this week and told him about his fear of being “eliminated”.
Confirming it, Jha said he was in touch with his client and that his fears were not unfounded. “His wife and brother have expressed similar fears.”
Jha said Haider could be shifted to Imphal immediately and sent to Kachin later. A jawan from the 13 Battalion secretly called some reporters in Shillong to convey the message.
Haider’s wife Bibi Shahar Bano was in Manipur from September 18 to 23, hoping to meet her husband for the first time in 17 months.
An Assam Rifles team escorted Shahar Bano, her two children and brother-in-law Akhtar Ali to the 13 Battalion’s base, but did not allow them to see Haider despite a June 19 order from the Shillong bench of Gauhati High Court to give the family an opportunity to meet.
The Shillong bench has since showcaused four Assam Rifles officials for turning back a woman who had come to the state with judicial permission to meet her court-martialled husband.
The Assam Rifles dismissed Haider’s fears of being eliminated as a figment of his imagination. The paramilitary force’s spokesman in Manipur, Lt Col L.M. Pant laughed off the suggestion that a jawan could be killed in custody. “He (Haider) is our man and why should anyone finish him off' These are all false charges.”
The spokesman also rebutted Shahar Bano’s claim that she was not allowed to meet her husband. He said the woman and her children were given “full opportunity”.