| Sumita Ghose outside the court in Guwahati. Picture by S.H. Patgiri
Guwahati, Dec. 16: More than five years after social activist Sanjoy Ghose was abducted and presumably murdered in Assam, the first hearing of a trial began here today with his wife Sumita giving an account of his crusade against the alleged nexus between the Ulfa and a section of officials and contractors.
Sumita reached the fast-track court of the additional ad hoc sessions judge, Kamrup, around 11 am, followed by her mother-in-law, CBI officials and advocates.
Standing in the witness box, she told the additional ad hoc sessions judge, P.K. Phukan, that her husband had incurred the Ulfa’s wrath by exposing the nexus between the outfit and officials and contractors in Majuli through write-ups in a newsletter, Deepalok.
She testified that her husband had received threats from the Ulfa before his abduction. Ghose was the general secretary of the Northeast chapter of the Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development (Avard-NE). He was abducted from the river island of Majuli, where he was implementing an anti-erosion project, on July 4, 1997.
Sumita and other members of the family alternated between hope and despair for months after he went missing. After much drama, the Ulfa announced that Ghose had died after falling into a gorge somewhere in Arunachal Pradesh while being shifted from one camp to another.
Sumita, who had sought proof of her husband’s presumed death, told The Telegraph that she was “determined to find the truth”. A special investigation team of the CBI filed chargesheets against 11 people, including Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, in 1999.
CBI lawyers will interrogate incarcerated Ulfa vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi as a prosecution witness during the course of the trial.
According to Sumita’s testimony, a gun-toting militant named P. Hatimota had told her husband a few months before he was abducted that the Ulfa leadership was watching his and Avard-NE’s every move.
Sumita recalled having a telephone conversation with a man claiming to be Paresh Barua a few days after her husband was taken hostage.
She quoted him as saying that Ghose would be freed if three conditions were met: Avard-NE’s withdrawal from Assam, an apology to the people of the state and suspension of operations by the security forces.
The social activist’s wife told the court that she immediately agreed to the first two conditions, but did not make a commitment on the third “as it was not in my hands”.
After examining and interrogating about 250 people, the CBI surmised that Ghose had probably been shot dead the very day he was abducted.