The Assam government told the Gauhati High Court on Wednesday that it has paid Rs 30 lakh as compensation to five families whose houses were bulldozed following an arson attack on a police station in Nagaon in 2022, reported The Hindu.

On May 21, 2022, a mob torched the Batadrava police station in Nagaon district, a day after a fish trader, Safikul Islam, died in custody. Islam’s family had alleged that the police demanded Rs 10,000 and a duck as a bribe to release him.

A day after the police station was burnt down, the police demolished the homes of the accused men. There are no provisions under the Indian law to demolish the home of anyone accused of a crime but this has become a regular practice in several Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states.

On Wednesday, Senior Advocate D Nath, appearing for the Assam government, told the court that the Nagaon superintendent of police paid the compensation money to the five families on Monday, reported The Indian Express. The compensation was for the demolition of two concrete houses and four makeshift houses.

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state told the court that Rs 10 lakh each was provided to Imamul Haque and Mojibur Rahman for the demolition of their concrete houses. Rs 2.5 lakh was paid for each makeshift house demolished.

Rahman was paid Rs 12.5 lakh as he had lost both a concrete and a makeshift house, reported The Hindu.

Nath also said that the state government has sanctioned compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh for the family of Islam, reported The Indian Express. He said that Islam’s family had not yet produced a next of kin certificate and authorities would process the payment once they obtain the document.

On May 3, the Gauhati High Court also stated that a government-appointed inquiry had admitted Islam’s death was a case of custodial death.

“This is a clear case of vicarious liability of the state,” the court said.

The Assam government, however, has denied that Islam’s death was a lapse of custodial responsibility. In an affidavit submitted to the High Court on May 21, 2023, the superintendent of police, Nagaon, said that Islam’s death was due to his own ill health.

The statement said: “The deceased Safikul Islam was never arrested by the Batadrava Police. He was rescued in a drunken state and medically examined at Batadrava MPCH. However, his family member never came to receive him from police station in spite of being informed over the phone on May 21.”

According to the police, Islam’s blood pressure was “not readable” by the doctor and that his condition was found to be critical upon medical examination. He was accordingly taken to a hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

“It may be noted that videography of the post mortem could not be done as this office was not apprised of the police custody of the deceased,” the affidavit claimed.

The statement denied that “[Islam] died due because of a fault on the part of the police and that he was unlawfully killed in police custody”. The police also denied that Islam had been subjected to brutal torture in custody.

Also read: Death, demolitions, terror charges: In ravaged Assam village, residents contradict police claims

Five states saw 128 ‘punitive demolitions’ from April to June 2022, mostly aimed at Muslims: Amnesty