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Ex-CM Mahanta indicted for ‘secret killings’
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, November 15
The much-awaited report of Justice K.N. Saikia Commission into the alleged ‘secret killings’ (systematic elimination of close relatives of ULFA members in a sort of revenge killing), that took place during the later half of the erstwhile AGP-led government (1998-2001), has indicted former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and recommended ‘gradual dismantling’ of the counter-insurgency unified command structure involving the Army, police and paramilitary forces.

The commission was constituted by the present Congress government in Assam last year to fulfil one of its electoral promises. The commission submitted its report in four parts after conducting investigation into 34 cases of ‘secret killings’.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today tabled the report in the state Assembly. The report, though that did not directly name Mahanta, but said there was “enough evidence to show that the then home minister was at the helm of these extra-Constitutional killings.” Mahanta, as chief minister, was also holding the home portfolio during his second tenure in 1996-2001.

The commission also indicted the Army and pointed out that the assailants in each of the 34 cases of killings probed by it were armed with sophisticated fire-arms “of prohibited bores” that are prescribed only for use by the police and the military.

“That the army was ubiquitous. By army we mean the armed forces of the Union deployed in Assam in aid of civil power,” the commission in its report specifically said, adding that SULFA (surrendered ULFA members) members were also used in carrying out those secret killings.

The controversial term ‘secret killings’ used to hog headlines in the state during the later part of the erstwhile AGP-led government of Mahanta while referring to those incidents in which kin of several top ULFA leaders were killed and the police failed to identify the culprits.

The Congress, which was then sitting in the Opposition, took this up as a campaign to defeat the AGP in the 2001 and 2006 elections. The Congress government also appointed two commission of inquiry to probe into ‘secret killings’.

The previous commission of inquiry headed by Justice J.N. Sharma, which was constituted in August 2005, gave up saying that it had failed to pinpoint the culprits responsible of ‘secret killings’ and in ‘fixing responsibility’’. That commission submitted a preliminary report and that was also tabled in the state Assembly today though it had earlier rejected the report.

The Congress government then constituted the Saikia Commission to probe 11 incidents of ‘secret killings’ and the commission took up suo moto 23 more cases.

Though the Saikia Commission report said that “there was enough evidence” to show the then home minister’s involvement, no evidence was directly recorded in it.

About the use of surrendered ULFA members, the commission report said the then home minister (Mahanta) used some SULFA members as “political policemen” to carry out the killings. The commission also referred to an “unholy nexus” between police officers and surrendered ULFA members, and held the then home minister (Mahanta) as being “at the helm of these extra-Constitutional killings.”

“The then police authorities openly constituting some of the SULFAs an extra-Constitutional authorities for killings, in the process of Ulfocide, that is deliberate killing of ULFAs and their families and relatives, thus executing them for their ‘status offences’ of belonging to ULFA and ULFA-related families, without their committing any crime or offence,” the report said.

Mahanta, however, termed the report biased and politically motivated to put an end to his political career. He said the commission has violated the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 by taking up suo moto 23 cases in addition to 11 cases recommended by the government for probe.

“The Saikia Commission report is biased and aimed at maligning me and the AGP-led coalition government that I headed between 1996 and 2001. Moreover, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has adopted a policy of appeasement towards the insurgent groups through this report,” Mahanta said immediately after Gogoi tabled the report in the Assembly here today.

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