Seven Army Personnel Sentenced To Life Imprisonment For Killing Five In Fake Encounter
Seven Indian Army personnel were dismissed from service and sentenced to life imprisonment on October 13 by an army Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) for a fake encounter that had taken place in 1994 in Dangari, Assam. The judgement was pronounced at Army’s Dinjan base in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district. The seven Army personnel have been found guilty of carrying out a fake encounter killing five Assam Students’ Union (AASU) members in the 1994.
24-year-old fake encounter case
Major General AK Lal, Colonel Thomas Mathew, Colonel RS Sibiren, Captain Dilip Singh, Captain Jagdeo Singh and Naik Albinder Singh and Naik Shivender Singh were court-martialed, reported The Hindu.
As reported by The Wire, an Indian Army source told IANS, “Summary General Court Martial held at Dinjan has pronounced judgment in an encounter case of 1994,” further adding that a competent authority will confirm the judgement which may take 2-3 months.
The judgement comes after the relentless struggle of 24 years of AASU vice-president and now a BJP leader, Jagadish Bhuyan. Bhuyan’s fight led to a CBI probe which was ordered by the Gauhati High Court. After this, charge sheet was filed against the seven personnel, after which the Supreme Court ordered for a court-martial, which went on from July 16 to July 27.
“For 24 years I have never once lost faith in Indian democracy, Indian judiciary system and the Indian Army. The Army has given exemplary punishment to its own officers and men on finding them guilty and this has amplified the glory of the Army and increased people’s trust in the Army,” said Bhuyan, as reported by The Times of India.
The detention and subsequent encounter
On February 17, 1994, troops of the 18 Punjab Regiment based in Dhola, Tinsukia district picked up nine people from their houses in the Talap area, suspecting them of being ULFA extremists. This happened after the general manager of Assam Frontier Tea Limited, Talap Tea Estate, Rameshwar Singh was killed by ULFA gunmen.
The then Asom Gana Parishad MLA, Bhuyan informed the authorities about the missing men, After the local police confirmed that the nine men were detained at the Dhola camp, he filed a habeas corpus in Gauhati High Court on February 22, 1994. After this Chief Justice SN Phukan and Justice AK Pattnaik ordered the Army to produce them before the magistrate.
Reportedly, on the same day, the Army then released four of the nine detained youth-Matheswar Moran, Gunin Hazarika, Prakash Sharma, and Manoranjan Das at different locations. The soldiers reportedly took the other five to the Dibru-Saikhowa National park in two boats and shot them dead there. Post this, the two boatmen also vanished.
Bhuyan again filed a petition on February 23 stating that the troops ignored the court’s order and killed the boys. After the petition was filed, Tinsukia district police chief said RK Singh revealed that killed five men were severely tortured. In fact, one of the four released men, Motheshwar Moran said that five were probably killed because their bodies were extremely severed and could not be produced before the local magistrate.
The CBI then took up the case and listed the seven Army personnel as accused. Later, the case reached SC which sought for the court-martial and punishment of the guilty.