The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ulfa-wary army begins court martial
- Gorkha Regiment officer faces trial over custody death

Dibrugarh, June 3: Court martial proceedings against three army personnel ' a Major and two jawans 'in the Ajit Mahanta custody death case began today. The death of the daily wage earner in army custody on February 4 had triggered turmoil in Kakopathar and protests across Assam.

The court martial against the three personnel of the 1/3 Gorkha Regiment headquartered here, allegedly involved in the custody death, began today under the direct supervision of the Dinjan-based 2 Mountain Division.

The court martial is being held at an army base in Lohitpur in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh. The logistical support is being provided by the Tezu-based 82 Brigade, which comes under the 2 Mountain Division.

“The proceedings began today with the assembling of the court members and lawyers from both the prosecution and the defence sides. Maj. Nishant Sharma and two other jawans of the 1/3 Gorkha Regiment stand trial in the case,” a senior army source revealed.

The proceedings assume significance as they have come in wake of the Ulfa’s recent appeal to the organisations that had spearheaded the agitation in Kakopathar to intensify their campaign if the army failed to punish the guilty by June 10.

Sources said Maj. Sharma was in charge of the company of the 1/3 Gorkha Regiment based at Makum. He faces charges of “misleading his superiors” about the actual incident.

The senior army source also added that the actual examination of witnesses would be carried out on Monday. Apart from army personnel, statements of Mahanta’s wife Kadami, the civilian driver who helped dump the body in hospital and some other persons will be recorded as witnesses.

While the army is facing the heat in the Ajit Mahanta case, state police are no better off. The Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) today asked the Assam director-general of police to submit a detailed report within two months on newspaper reports that an imprisoned Ulfa activist, Prasanna Phukan, has lost his eyesight owing to lack of treatment, a staff reporter adds from Guwahati.

A two-member bench today took suo moto cognisance of the case after seeing reports detailing Phukan’s plight.

In another development, an Ulfa militant was arrested while three Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam militants laid down arms before the army at Panbari camp in Dhubri district, adds our Dhubri correspondent.

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