The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dispur clears Mahanta name
- Affidavit on killings absolves ex-CM

New Delhi/Guwahati, Jan. 23: The very Congress that once implicated former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta in extra-judicial killings during his second term in office has now chosen to bail him out for no apparent reason.

An affidavit filed by the Tarun Gogoi government recently in response to a public interest litigation against Mahanta in the Supreme Court states that allegations about “secret killings” between 1998 and 2001 are all “false and untenable”.

The affidavit also denies that there was a conspiracy between Dispur and Delhi during that period to soften up Ulfa by targeting families of the militants. It states that the incidents mentioned in the PIL “do not show prima facie involvement of state/central machineries in the alleged killings”.

Most of the victims in the “secret killings” were family members and close relatives of Ulfa militants.

The word “secret” was used to describe these incidents because the killers were never identified.

Aalok, the NGO behind the PIL, had accused Mahanta of conspiring with the erstwhile NDA government at the Centre to get 265 “innocent” Assamese civilians murdered by unidentified assailants.

The NGO claimed that Mahanta, who was then also the president of the Asom Gana Parishad, confessed during a party meeting that his government ordered the “secret killings” at the behest of the Union home ministry. It attached a newspaper report in support of its claim.

The Congress-led government’s affidavit, however, contends that most of the killings cited by the NGO in its PIL find mention in police records. The implication is that that there is nothing “secret” about those incidents.

The affidavit also accuses Aalok of getting the figures wrong. The NGO, it says, has listed 188 killings in its PIL but police records for that period mention only 167 casualties. The 118 cases that were registered at police stations are ostensibly in different stages of investigation.

“It is only for 21 persons that the police have no records,” the government’s affidavit says.

The Gogoi government’s claims, all of which favour Mahanta, contradict the Congress’s no-holds-barred campaign against him in the run-up to the 2001 elections.

The allegations not only cost Mahanta the chief ministership but also the AGP president’s chair.

The former chief minister was expelled from the party later, forcing him to form the AGP (Pragatisheel).

The Gogoi government constituted as many as three panels to probe the “secret killings”.

The last one, the Justice K.N. Saikia Commission, handed Dispur its interim report on some of the cases last year. The probe into another batch of cases continues.

Against this backdrop, it will confound many — perhaps even Mahanta — that the Congress-led government has filed an affidavit favouring him.

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