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Killings probe on last lap

Guwahati, June 14: The Justice K.N. Saikia Commission will not require a fifth extension to complete its inquiry into the “secret killings” in Assam between 1998 and 2001.

A senior official said the commission would wind up its probe by July 15 and compile the final report by August 21. “As things stand today, the panel has made it clear that it will complete the process of hearing and cross-examining witnesses by mid-July. It will have over a month to prepare the report on the 10 cases that are being investigated.”

The term “secret killings” was coined to denote the unresolved murders of people either related to Ulfa militants or sympathetic towards the outlawed group. The Saikia commission is the third one to conduct an inquiry into some of these killings. The first inquiry, conducted by Justice Meera Sarma, was never completed and the findings of the second did not meet the government’s approval.

Set up on August 21, 2005, with a six-month term, the Saikia commission was initially given six cases to investigate. It has since handed three interim reports to the chief minister, covering as many as 25 incidents.

Depositions by witnesses are under way in 10 instances of secret killings in Jorhat, Sivasagar, Kamrup and Nalbari districts.

A source said the Saikia commission would probably follow the pattern of making separate recommendations in each case, as specified in the terms of reference of the inquiry. “But it will be at his discretion. He will decide whether to submit an overall list of conclusions and recommendations or do it case by case.”

Although the contents of none of the interim reports have been made public, Justice Saikia is believed to have written about administrative responsibility, dereliction of duty by some officials and the need for follow-up measures to prevent such “heinous” crimes from being committed again.

The closest that the government has come to revealing what the interim reports contain is while taking a dig at Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, under whose regime the secret killings occurred. Recently, ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma and Ripun Bora told the media that the political careers of Mahanta and many of his colleagues in the erstwhile AGP-led government would be ruined if the reports were made public.

The Saikia commission’s final report could have a bearing not only the careers of politicians like Mahanta but also police officials like former inspector-general G.M. Srivastava.

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