The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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One panel indicts, another to ‘punish’

Guwahati, Nov. 16: Assam will constitute a committee of experts to weigh the possibility of taking legal action against former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and others indicted by the K.N. Saikia Commission for the extra-judicial killings during the erstwhile AGP-led regime.

The Saikia commission’s report, tabled in the Assembly yesterday, holds Mahanta responsible for “Ulfocide”, a play on the term “genocide” and the fact that the victims were family members or people close to Ulfa militants. It points to “lurking evidence of the police-Sulfa nexus in the killings” and suggests dismantling of the Unified Command structure for counter-insurgency operations.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said today that there was no possibility, at least not in the immediate future, of winding up the Unified Command. He argued that the state of law and order was not conducive for such a radical measure. Addressing the media in the central hall of the Assembly, Gogoi dared Mahanta to challenge the findings of the Saikia commission in the court if he felt injustice had been done to him. He said the findings did justice to the families of the victims and sent out a strong message that nobody, no matter how high and mighty, was above the law.

“No police officer will ever dare to get involved in such a conspiracy in future. The report is an eye-opener for all. It has proved that nobody is above the law,” Gogoi said.

What he did not say was why the government’s action-taken report made no mention of Mahanta’s indictment.

The chief minister said the proposed committee of experts would be asked to establish whether any government agency was liable for penal action along with those named in the report. Mahanta was the chief minister and in charge of the home department during the period (1998-2001) when the “secret killings” occurred.

Gogoi dismissed Mahanta’s allegation about the Saikia commission’s report being tabled to appease Ulfa ahead of the panchayat polls. “Neither Mahanta nor the AGP objected when the Saikia panel was constituted. He started objecting only after it became clear that he had been found guilty.”

The Congress constituted the Saikia commission after rejecting the report of the preceding judicial inquiry by the J.N. Sarma Commission. That report was also tabled yesterday in accordance with a directive from Gauhati High Court.

Gogoi again justified his government’s decision to constitute the Saikia commission. “I would like to put it this way. Sarma played till the semifinals. Saikia played the final.”

He also took a dig at the AGP for backing Mahanta in the Assembly yesterday despite having expelled him from the party. “Let the AGP first make it clear whether it agrees that there were secret killings,” he said.

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