GUWAHATI: It is justice after 24 years for five Assam families.
An Army court in the state has recommended that seven personnel, who were allegedly involved in a fake encounter case in 1994 at Dangari in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district, be dismissed from service and awarded life imprisonment. The judgement was pronounced on Saturday.
A senior Army official said it would take about two to three months to get it confirmed by a “competent authority”. He, however, said the judgement was pronounced against “three officers and four JCOs and OR”.
Major General, AK Lal, is one of the personnel. The others are Colonels RS Sibiren and Thomas Matthew, Captains Dilip Singh and Jagdeo Singh, and Naiks Albinder Singh and Shivender Singh.
In 1994, the Dhola-based 18 Punjab Regiment of the Indian Army had picked up nine persons including a leader of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) Prabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debajit Biswas, Akhil Sonowal, Bhaben Moran, Matheswar Moran, Gunin Hazarika, Prakash Sharma and Manoranjan Das from different places of Doom Dooma circle of Tinsukia district and detained them at the Dhola army camp. The detention was in connection with the killing of Rameswar Singh, who was the general manager of a tea estate, by the rebels of United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).
Later, acting on a habeas corpus filed by a then Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader Jagadish Bhuyan who is now with the BJP, the Gauhati High Court had on February 21, 1994 ordered the Army to produce the nine persons at the nearest police station. The Army left five bodies including that of Prabin Sonowal, Debajit Biswas, Pradip Dutta, Akhil Sonowal and Bhaben Moran at the Doom Dooma police station on February 22. The remaining four persons were released at different places.
Bhuyan is happy that the law finally prevailed in the case. “It is late but I am happy that justice has been finally delivered,” he told TNIE.
It was he who had informed the chief secretary, the state’s police chief and the governor about the case of the missing persons.
Following the incident, there was a state-wide uproar. The then AASU president Sarbananda Sonowal, who is now Assam chief minister, and others had staged a series of protests. The AASU had declared the victims as ‘Pancha Swahid’ (five martyrs).