Sunday, November 29, 2020
North East

Mahanta given clean chit in Assam ‘secret killings’

GUWAHATI, September 4: Twelve years after the KN Saikia Commission on extra-judicial killings in Assam indicted former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the Gauhati high court on Monday dismissed the findings as “unconstitutional” and quashed the report.
The high court on Monday said the Saikia Commission was set up violating various sections of the Commissions of Inquiry Act. The Saikia Commission submitted its first report in 2006. Three supplementary reports followed, the last coming on August 7, 2007. Later in 2008, Mahanta moved the high court, challenging the constitution of the Justice KN Saikia Commission.
Vindicated, Mahanta’s lawyer Rajib Baruah said, “The Saikia Commission was set up without even tabling the report of a previous commission headed by Justice JN Sharma set up to inquire the same matter. In 2005, the then government set up the Saikia Commission without even discontinuing the Sharma commission through a proper gazette notification. On these grounds, the high court termed the Saikia Commission as illegal and quashed its report.”
Between 1998 and 2001, when Mahanta was in power as chief minister, a series of killings marked by a pattern – the victims were all linked to the militant outfit Ulfa – came to be known as the “secret killings”. The issue came in handy for Congress at the time, which came to power with a decisive mandate in 2001, promising to take up the matter.
Then chief minister, Tarun Gogoi initiated a judicial inquiry into six cases, but it had to be discontinued after the judge leading the probe excused herself two years later. Following this, another commission was set up under retired high court judge Justice JN Sharma, which submitted a report in 2005 but failed to identify any culprit and only said they were all “revenge killings”. Three weeks after the submission of this report, Gogoi had set up another panel under retired Justice KN Saikia.
The Saikia Commission’s report did not name any individual, but had enough references and indications holding Mahanta by and large responsible. It said that every killing involved an Ulfa family or a kin of the outfit leaders and no charge sheet was submitted in any case. Most of the killings occurred at dead of night, and the assailants invariably spoke in Assamese to wake up the victims. There was police patrolling in the crime areas prior to and after, but not during, the killings. The Commission report also pointed at a “nexus” between the state police and surrendered Ulfa (Sulfa) cadres in the killings. (TNN)