These were the peculiar executions which remain the darkest and murkiest parts of the political history of Assam in the years 1998-2001

Voices Monday, June 23, 2014 - 05:30
By Priyanka Dass Saharia Dr Dharanidhar Das was my parents’ classmate in high school. A shy, quiet, intelligent man who spent more time with his poetry, melancholia than his medical books, was a “decent, helpful, friendly” boy who always kept to his own affairs, was friendly and immensely shy…A gentle soul. The man was the leprosy doctor in Juluki in the village of Barama, involved mostly in social activities and an avid poet in the Asom Sahitya Sabha. In August 1998, probably the darkest period of Assam’s insurgency plagued history… The four members along with Mr Das met their tragic end. They were his mother, his wife and his young sister. This was the tragic end of Mithinga Daimary’s family…Daimary, the ULFA publicity chief. A group of assailants, armed with 9 mm pistols, .32 and .38 shot guns at 1 post midnight. Doorbell rang, thinking nothing of it; the family accustomed to innumerable search visits for Daimary opened the door. Bullets pierced each of the members… It was all over in a matter of less than 5 minutes. The gunfire was heard by many but no one came out of terror. His 10 year old son, Bhaskar, who had hid under the bed survived with a lifetime of horror of seeing the ‘dying’. Rupjyoti, Das’s wife was 5 months pregnant… These were the peculiar executions which remain the darkest and murkiest parts of the political history of Assam in the years 1998-2001. They were infamously called the “secret killings of Assam”. Undeniably the most controversial “extra-judicial” killings in the region, they were a series of systemic violent attacks by unknown assailants on relatives, friends, and sympathizers of ULFA insurgents who failed to bring the cadres to negotiations or surrender.  Statistics account for approximately 1100 people who became the unfortunate victims and after two consecutive failed attempts to formalize a concrete report from a working committee, the Saikia Committee (constituted on 4th November 2003) presented the KN Saikia report in the Assam Assembly on November 15, 2007. The committee formally reported 35 cases of investigated secret killings and many not investigated and reported. The modus operandi of the “Ulfocide” as the committee termed it as, would occur in the “dead of night, the masked assailants armed with sophisticated weapons with prohibited bore (usually used by state security personnel) visit the family, invariably spoke in Assamese to wake up the victims”. Vehicles like Maruti gypsies, TATA Sumo and Maruti van were used for transportation. The compensation meted out in the documents was 5 Lakhs though the families received only an amount of 3 Lakhs with some receiving nothing at all.  The report showed the close nexus between SULFA and government, which termed the former as the “extra-constitutional” authoritative executioners in this “Ulfocide”. When we strip off the outrageous pathetic facts what remains bare is one of the most controversial question in the history of insurgency in Assam – The entity who is vested with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights and security of its people; did it for the greater good of “nation building”. Its inherent measure of impunity “suppressing the voices of a section of the common man with gun power." With everyone playing politics over the issue, who is to blame? It’s almost like “scavenging” for skeletons from the closet and I use the word “scavenging” simply because of how nobody, in their privileged, secured comfort zones want to be associated with the kind of mess this issue is potent of. Utpal Borpujari, one of the journalists who compiled a book “Secret Killings of Assam” with two other journalists stated, “The commission took two years to produce three voluminous reports on 35 cases involving 50 deaths. The findings of the report have however not been fully implemented and the ruling Congress government has only been using this as a political weapon against the opposition during whose regime all this happened.” As a Social Science student we explore different discourses on the Role and Power of the State, and in this context of the Indian State’s imperative operation to “nationalize space” we can observe how it fails to create a contested space to keep alive the routine practices of consent that the governed in a modern democracy are entitled to. It’s interesting to note and all possible institutions and discourses of ‘developmentalist’ and democratic nature. The institutionalization of authoritative practices to counter the insurgency operations in a nation with an ethos as ours, is rather a jarring fact. The manipulative practices deployed by the state machinery (The Asom Gana Parishad Government had, under Mahanta and with the connivance of the Army and the State Police machinery) who used the SULFA (surrendered ULFA) who actively facilitated the logistics for this operation. The Army pitted both the parties (ULFA and SULFA) against each other and used the arrangement as a shield against themselves. Henceforth they effectively strategised in a manner to yield information and accumulate ammunition form the surrendered cadres. It was planned and strategized in a motivational conspiracy which would show a fight started by the SULFA and avenged by the ULFA. It was a underlying pattern observed that the targets of the secret killings were selected with care and aimed to hit the ULFA where it hurt the most. Arabinda Rajkhow’s (Chairman of the ULFA) brother was shot in broad daylight in Dibrugarh. The SULFAs were motivated by a sense of convenience to surrender to the government and join hands against the ULFA. In their new found liberation, they could carry out their nefarious activities and yet carry their own arms out in the public under government’s permission and use their image as an ex-militant to evoke fear and terror in the minds of people. The Asom Gana Parishad, headed by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the then chief minister of Assam was heavily corrupt, centred solely on building his own political base. Many political members were a part of the unholy nexus of the government, the police, the Army and the SULFA. The ULFA’s anger and resentment at the betrayal manifested in their vengeful killings in the 2001 in the Moran Polo Ground encounter in Dibrugarh and Sibsagar. The mindless ‘secret killings’ of these innocent victims who had hardly anything to do with the ideologies and motivations of the militants were carried on as they were “softer targets” and were “collaterals” in the violence, proving to be a buffer cum a provoking factor to push the cadres out of their shells. Many people in the society here still feel a disinclination to talk about these killings while the SULFAs clearly learnt their lessons the harder way of being the puppets to the manipulative designs of the State. It brings us to the question of the continued presence of the impunity-infused-power of the State and the Army in the form of the draconian act of AFSPA. Undoubtedly there is a lot of pressure on these Army officers on behalf of the State but resorting to unethical, unconstitutional means through these illegal tactics, proving to be an unholy nexus between the two, is a gross violation of the facilities attributed to the Act. Unable to lure the militants through lucrative surrender schemes, the State hit where it hurt the most. Terms like “Atrocious hegemony” don’t even begin to explain this brutal poking of raw wounds with a pinch of salt. These bodies were found in random places, with the mutilated parts thrown in ponds and hedges. It almost makes us feel fratricidal of the idea of “Democracy”, especially the Indian Press for the fact that this remains an under-reported, shameful chapter of this nation’s ethos. Aruni Kashyap’s beautiful words which probably echoes to every Assamese like myself, who would sit down to write of a painful past with a glorious history and culture, “Often, while writing, I would end up crying without being aware of it. But the novels I have loved and admired are about gross social injustice and at the same time, deeply political, subversive, tender and hopeful; the conflicts of the human heart are their central preoccupation. I was very worried that I would end up writing a book that I wouldn’t like reading and that is why I had to tone down the bitterness and anger while rewriting it. I wanted it to be an optimistic book that would look beyond the ugliness of violence. I didn’t want to write a bitter, angry story that would thrive on embracing victim hood because I do not believe that the perennially resilient people of Assam are victims; we are, rather winners, survivors.” Priyanka Dass Saharia is a final year masters student of Sociology in Delhi School of Economics. The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.
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