Army faces probe for alleged fake killing in Assam

By Syed Zarir Hussain


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Doomdooma (Assam) : As Assam saw highway blockades and protests against alleged fake killings for a second day, the state government Tuesday ordered a probe into the army's role in a local villager's death.

"We have ordered an enquiry to probe the alleged encounter death of Budheswar Moran. The report is to be submitted within 30 days," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said Tuesday.

The killing of Moran, 24, in an alleged 'encounter' with soldiers of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles over the weekend in eastern Assam's Tinsukia district has led to protests, with hundreds of people blocking a highway for the second straight day Tuesday near Doomdooma, 515 km east of Guwahati.

The army claimed that Moran was a "hardcore militant" of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). But hours after the controversial encounter, locals and family members claimed that Moran was innocent and that he had no links with any rebel group.

"We are not going to take possession of the dead body so long as the erring army soldiers are not punished. The agitation would become more vigorous if such state-sponsored terrorism is not stopped immediately," a group of protestors said amid loud anti-army slogans.

The Indian Army, engaged in anti-insurgency operations in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, is under fire over frequent allegations of rights violations, torture of innocent civilians and fake encounters while conducting raids.

"Incidents of innocent youths being killed by the army is on the rise, besides torture and harassment of civilians in the name of countering insurgency," Lachit Bordoloi, who heads the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samity (MASS) – a leading rights group in Assam, told IANS.

Army authorities were not available for comment.

There have also been strong protests from legislators in adjoining state Arunachal Pradesh over alleged atrocities committed on locals by the army while conducting raids on ULFA bases.

Arunachal Rural Development Minister Chowna Mein said villagers were tortured by the army in Lohit district after an explosion triggered by the ULFA killed two soldiers a fortnight ago.

"The villagers were made to clear the jungles and used for searching dead bodies. They (army) confined the villagers without food and water soon after the blast and ransacked some houses," the minister said.

On Monday, a senior army commander tendered an apology to the Arunachal Pradesh government. In July last year, the army punished Major Nishant Sharma and Rifleman Sudip Gurung after finding the duo guilty of killing a villager in custody.

The military court ruling came after the Assam government lodged a protest with the army saying the villager, Ajit Mahanta, was shot dead after being picked up by the army on suspicion of having links with the ULFA.

In December, the army was mired in yet another blazing row over the torture of a separatist suspect in custody. Army authorities were forced to apologise and order an inquiry after Nipul Saikia, a farmer, was picked up by soldiers and was seriously injured while in custody.

N.C. Marwah, general-officer-commanding of the second Mountain Division, later tendered an apology for the incident.