Guwahati: Police in Assam have ruled out a communal angle in the Barak embankment breach, which led to floods in the Cachar district, and urged people and the media to refrain from spreading rumours.
“There is no communal angle in this event. My appeal to various social media users and news channels is to kindly refrain from peddling these rumours without any evidence,” Cachar Superintendent of Police (SP) Ramandeep Kaur told a press conference on 6 July.
On 19 June, Silchar town — the district headquarters of Cachar district — was inundated as water from the Barak river entered the town. While excessive rainfall led to a spate in the river, the situation is said to have been aggravated by a breach in the embankment at Bethukandi, 3 km from Silchar.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had surveyed the flood-affected town for the second time on 26 June and told the media that the flood was a man-made disaster.
The Cachar police apprehended four people last week — Kabul Khan, Mitu Hussain Laskar, Nazir Hussain Laskar, and Ripon Khan. While Nazir has been described as a contractor who would work at the embankment frequently, the others are said to be local residents.
Asked about the evidence that led to the arrest of the four men, Kaur cited certain videos. Kabul Khan — the first to be apprehended — had allegedly filmed a video of the breach, and the video is reportedly being used to identify others in the case.
During the press conference, Kaur added that there are others who have been identified as suspects in the case.
Soon after the arrests, some news channels alleged a communal conspiracy behind the breach, also using the term ‘flood jihad’.
“Our investigation is looking into the role of some flood-affected people who have broken the embankment. They have destroyed government property and the proceedings taking place against them will be under sections (of law) dealing with this (act),” the Cachar SP said, adding that there were more suspects in the case.
She added, “There is no ‘flood jihad’ here. Silchar is a peaceful area with many communities living side-by-side. It’s not like one particular community attempted to use this against any other community, this was an act of God. The rainfall this year was unprecedented.”
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Family cries foul
The embankment is believed to have been breached sometime in the last week of May, with heavy rains in June causing flooding.
According to Joydeep Biswas, a professor at Cachar University, the flooding in the town could have been avoided. “It (the embankment) was damaged on 23 May and the local flooding had been resolved. Nothing was done after that.”
Cachar Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli said the administration did its best to repair the damage but heavy rains foiled all attempts.
Following the embankment breach, the water resources department filed an FIR on 24 May at Silchar police station. “The incident happened at night… We immediately lodged an FIR mentioning that the miscreants had done this,” said an official of the department.
The suspects arrested include Nazir Hussain Laskar, identified by police as a contractor.
Nazir worked with the water resources department, added Anwar Hussain Laskar, former MLA from Sonai constituency. “Every year, he would work at the embankment, make some repairs.”
An official with the water resources department confirmed the same. “He (Nazir) would often deliver us supplies. We had engaged him along with others to fix the broken dyke,” said the official.
Meanwhile, the family of one of the suspects, Ripon Khan, has denied his role in the embankment breach. “We don’t know anything about the embankment being cut. All we know is water broke the barrier and flooded (the town),” said Ripon’s mother Abida Begum. “My son was arrested after so many days after the flooding. He wasn’t involved in any such activity. He was busy with his duty. He works as a driver.”
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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