R Dutta choudhury
GUWAHATI, Jan 28 – Misuse of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and loopholes in the criminal justice system are strengthening the hands of the militant groups active in Assam to some extent as there have been instances where innocents were killed in the operations, while senior members of the militant groups managed to obtain bail because of the failure of the police to file the chargesheets on time.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that with the improvement in the overall law-and-order situation, there were serious discussions on whether the AFSPA should be kept in force in the State and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has opposed extension of the Act in the entire State. However, the Army and the State Government wanted to keep the Act on and ultimately, the Government of India decided to extend the Act in the entire State for another year.
Sources pointed out that there have been instances when innocents were killed in operations, which alienated the common people and strengthened the hands of the militant outfits. Giving some instances of suspected killings of innocents, sources said that the recent killing of Lalit Moran in the Kakojan area under Digboi police station was one doubtful killing as there was no record against the person in the records of the police or security agencies. As per reports, Moran, along with three others, went to cut firewood in the forest and seeing an Army party approaching, the others managed to escape, while Moran, who was on a tree, was shot down. A magisterial probe has been ordered into the incident, but in such cases, the punishment is not harsh enough even if any Armyman if found guilty.
Sources said that in another such incident, three youths –Siva Moran, Janak Moran and Dhiraj Baruah of Makum area had go out of their houses on motorcycles on December 25, 2011 but they did not return home. Their bodies were found in the Namsai reserve forest the next day. The Army filed an FIR in the Namsai police station that they were killed in an encounter, but the police did not have any record of involvement of the youths in activities of the militant groups.
On November 15, 2012, three persons – Ajit Saikia, Bhoben Pegu and Gada Pegu were killed in Dakhin Majuli. According to records available with the police, Ajit was involved in the activities of the ULFA, but there was no record against the other two.
Sources said that the killings of innocents during the counter-insurgency operations alienated the people of the villages to which those killed belonged and strengthened the hands of the militants and there should be efforts by Central and State Governments to ensure that no innocent is killed in the operations and any misuse of the AFSPA should be dealt with strongly.
The loopholes in the present system of dealing with militants should also be plugged to deal with militancy. Sources said that majority of the militants including hardcore members of the militant groups managed to obtain bail because of the failure of the police to file the chargesheets on time. This also demoralized the personnel of the police and security forces who put their lives at risk to nab the militants.