Assam police officer behind D-voter detection passes away

His initiative to weed out ‘illegal immigrants’ from voters’ list led to Assam agitation

A retired IPS officer whose drive to weed out “illegal immigrants” from the voters’ list led to the Assam agitation of 1979-85 passed away on Monday. He was 86.

Former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Hiranya Kumar Bhattacharya was suffering from prolonged illness due to old age and breathed his last at a private hospital, members of his family said.

Posted as the DIG of the Assam’s Border Police, Mr. Bhattacharya had in the late 1970s found thousands of names in the State’s electoral rolls doubtful and identified them as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”. The drive was most intense in areas under the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha constituency where a summary revision of the voters’ list was ordered in April 1979 for conducting a byelection.

The drive yielded a category of voters classified as ‘D’, meaning doubtful voters. It was also the trigger for the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation, which ended with the signing of the Assam Accord in August 1985.

Mr. Bhattacharya was taken into preventive detention under the National Security Act in 1981 on the charges of fomenting a pro-agitation rebellion in Assam police before finally losing his job. The IPS officer of 1958 batch contested his dismission and won the case in 1996 but was past the retirement age by then to be reinstated.

Ironically, Mr. Bhattacharya had trained members of Mukti Bahini (freedom fighters) in Assam for liberating Bangladesh. In 2013, the Bangladesh government bestowed on him the Friends of Liberation War honour.

The late police officer had briefly dabbled in politics and written a few books, the most notable of them being ‘Betrayal of North East: The Arrested Voice’ and ‘Operation Lebensraum – Illegal Migration from Bangladesh’, which deals with the issue of cross-border immigration in Assam from a global perspective.

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