GUWAHATI: Two cattle smugglers who were arrested last week in Uttar Pradesh and handed over to the Assam Police were killed on Tuesday in Assam’s Kokrajhar district in firing by unknown assailants while they were being taken to trace their smuggling routes, a senior police officer said, adding that four policemen were injured in the shootout.
The deceased, identified by police as Akbar Banjara and Salman Banjara — both from Meerut — were arrested under various sections of Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Assam Police had earlier announced a sum of ₹2 lakh for arrest of the duo and the sum was handed over to Uttar Pradesh police following their arrest.
According to a senior police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, upon being questioned in custody, the duo revealed a nexus that funded terror networks by smuggling cattle into Bangladesh from India.
“Following disclosures made by the two, our team had taken them to interior parts of Raimona National Park towards Jamduar, close to the Indo-Bhutan border to find out more about the routes used for cattle smuggling when the police party was ambushed by extremists around 1.15am,” said Kokrajhar police superintendent Thube Prateek Vijaykumar
“Our team got down, took positions and started firing towards the extremists. This lasted for around 12-15 minutes during which, the two accused who were in police vehicles as well as four policemen sustained bullet injuries. All injured were rushed to nearby civil hospital where the two accused were declared dead,” he added.
The four injured policemen are admitted in government hospitals and their condition is stated to be stable.
Following the incident, combing operations led to recovery of one 1 AK-47 rifle with 2 magazines, 35 rounds of live ammunition and 28 shell casings from the area, the SP said.
“We are yet to ascertain the identity of the extremists who fired at the police party, but we suspect that they could have some relation with the arrested cattle smugglers and the entire racket. Combing operations are underway in the area and we hope to nab them soon,” Vijaykumar said.
Police officers familiar with the case said on condition of anonymity that the disclosures made by the two accused prior to Tuesday’s incident revealed links of the cattle smuggling racket with terror outfits and even Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.
“Some fundamentalist organisations as well as ISI of Pakistan is also involved in this illegal trade and these organisations are getting huge sums from this illegal trade and the illegal money is used for anti-India campaigns by these fundamentalist organisations and ISI,” said one of the officers mentioned above.
“In addition, there is illegal ‘hawala’ transaction which needs to be investigated thoroughly to find out the gamut of this illegal trade and the money trail. The illegal money acquired through this illegal trade is provided for terror funding. The arrested persons also revealed that a huge amount of this trade is also distributed to extremist organisations in Assam and Meghalaya,” the officer said.
Every year, thousands of cows brought from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country are smuggled into Bangladesh through the porous land and water boundaries in West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya.
According to data presented by state government in assembly last month, 29 people have been killed and 96 others injured in police encounters since May last year when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government under Himanta Biswa Sarma assumed office.
Sarma, who handles the home ministry, has on multiple occasions directed police to be strict with criminals and shoot at them if attacked or attempts to escape. The Gauhati high court is at present hearing a petition seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into these police shootings.