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Public probe call for CAA victim’s death

The Assam Christian Forum has sought a public inquiry into the incident
Sam Stafford
Sam Stafford
File picture

Mohsin Khaiyam   |   Guwahati   |   Published 22.01.20, 09:04 PM

The post-mortem report of Sam Stafford, a class IX student who died in suspected police firing on December 12 during the anti-CAA protests here, said the bullet which hit him “passed from back to front”.

The Assam Christian Forum has sought a public inquiry into the incident.

Sources said doctors who had seen the report confirmed that 17-year-old Sam was hit in the right lower back and the bullet exited through the neck region.

They said Sam was probably trying to get away from the area and when he was hit, he fell face down, resulting in facial injuries.

No bullet was lodged in his body and he received only one bullet injury.

Local residents claimed Sam was killed around 7pm in suspected action by security forces during curfew hours in the Hatigaon area here. He was returning from a protest at Latasil field.

Lights in the area had been switched off when the firing took place, they said.

The spokesperson for the Assam Christian Forum, Allen Brooks, said, “We have seen the post-mortem report and now we are verifying the contents. We are meeting the Nagarik Samaj on Thursday and will push for a public inquiry to unearth the truth. We will submit the report to the AHRC and government agencies because we feel somewhere down the line there is an attempt to hush up everything.”

Miguel Das Queah, a child rights activist and founder of Utsah, said, “Being an activist, it is my duty to raise pertinent questions in cases where child rights are involved. Therefore, even in the Sam Stafford case, I shall not hold back from asking questions.” He added that the police should be trained to deal with women and children during crowd control. “The police were not dealing with militants. Why was there a need to use lethal assault rifles against protesters? The police could justify the deployment of army citing that there could have been militants in the crowd and this comes under the court of law but killing of a child cannot be justified.”

Sam, a student of Phalguni Rabha High School, was preparing for his matriculation exam and loved music and playing the tabla.

Sam’s brother-in-law Sadek Ali told The Telegraph that they had filed an FIR with Hatigaon police on December 30 seeking a proper inquiry. “We don’t know what is there in the report but we are hearing a lot of things like Sam was tortured before he was shot. Therefore, we want a proper inquiry,” he said.

Miguel added that he would raise three topics at the National Human Rights Commission in a petition. The first will be the identification of the person or official who shot the bullet, the second would be holding the person ordering to shoot the bullet accountable and thirdly, compensating his family for their loss. “There has to be accountability, he added.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had said on December 21 that a special investigation team (SIT) had been constituted to probe the violence that took place during the anti-CAA protests in the state. The probe is headed by deputy inspector-general, CID, Mridulananda Sarma.

Two days before that, the Assam Human Rights Commission had taken up suo motu cognisance of media reports and directed Dispur to constitute a high-level probe into the incidents of deaths and injuries during the anti-CAA protests across the state and submit its report within a month.

A notice issued to the state government by the rights commission also mentioned that two youths, Dipanjal Das, 18, of Chaygaon in Kamrup district, and Sam, were killed at Lachit Nagar and Hatigaon here respectively in suspected police firing and no weapon was found on them.

The commission had fixed January 20 for the submission of the report but no report has been submitted so far.

The probe was still on, senior officials told The Telegraph. They also said the police was conducting a departmental probe into the violence and firing that took place here.

A source said the weapon used during the incident could be Insas, an assault rifle. These are used by the police and certain paramilitary forces for standard operations.

On the day of the incident, the police, CRPF, BSF and SSB personnel were deployed to control the violence. The army was deployed in the city on December 12.

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