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Friday , August 8 , 2014
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Justice a far cry 10 years on

Dhemaji victims’ kin await pledged jobs

- On alert ahead of Independence Day

Guwahati, Aug. 7: A week short of the tenth anniversary of the Independence Day blast at Dhemaji in 2004 that killed 13 people, including 10 schoolchildren, families of the victims continue to wait for justice and jobs promised by the government.

“The chief minister (Tarun Gogoi) had promised jobs to families of the victims of the blast, but even after nearly 10 years nothing has happened,” said Nityananda Saikia, whose two sisters, Aruna and Rupa, then studying in Classes X and VII respectively, died in the explosion at Dhemaji College ground where they had gone to participate in the parade.

Schoolteacher Rajkumar Taid, who lost his only son Siddhartha, 10, and Jogen Gogoi and Tirtheswar Sonowal, who lost their sons Pradipta, 10, and Bijit, 13, respectively, are as hurt by the government’s failure to keep its word.

“The chief minister had assured us twice of providing jobs to eligible members of the victims’ families but the promise seems to have been forgotten,” Jogen Gogoi said.

Citing the government’s commitment in the Assembly on Tuesday that it would draft a law to provide jobs to the kin of officials who die in the line of duty, Saikia asked, “Why can’t there be a similar provision for families who have lost their members to extremist violence?”

Dhemaji legislator Sumitra Doley Patir, however, claimed that some families had got jobs. “The others probably did not contact the government,” she said.

Statues of the blast victims installed at Children Educational and Career Development Centre in Dhemaji. File picture

Taid’s denial was stout. “None from the victims’ families has got the promised jobs. I too had asked for a job for my wife. Only one person, Rima Panging, who was seriously injured, was given a job,” he said.

As for justice, all are unanimous that the culprits must be brought to book.

Saikia, an advocate, said he had faith in the law and was hoping that justice would be done to them. “But I am prepared to go the distance if I don’t get justice. I may seek re-investigation or go to a higher court,” he said.

The case is on trial at the Dhemaji sessions court since charges were framed on March 27, 2012. The police had filed the chargesheet on February 28, 2011 against 15 people. Accused number one Rashid Bharali, an Ulfa militant, is at large having jumped bail. He is from Lakhimpur, a police official in Dhemaji said.

Sources said there are 77 prosecution witnesses of whom nine have deposed so far.

“The next hearing is on September 29,” a source said, adding that it may take some time for the trial to be completed. “Several witnesses are yet to depose,” he said.

Ulfa had carried out the blast probably hoping to target VIPs who attend Independence Day programmes, but it killed the 10 children, a teacher and two others. The outfit denied its role for about five years before coming round and apologising and terming the incident as a blot on Ulfa’s history.

Ulfa has since split down the middle, but as Independence Day and the 10th anniversary of the Dhemaji blast approaches the security apparatus is once again “on alert” to try and prevent similar incidents.

After all, the Rashid Bharalis are still around.

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