May 25th, 2017
On Monday, 22 May 2017, a special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Guwahati, Assam convicted 14 individuals in two cases involving a conspiracy to siphon off Rs 1000 crore government money to fund a terrorist outfit in Assam.
The next day, on 23 May, the special court dispensed life sentences to three of these individuals while the remaining 12 were issued jail terms of varying lengths. Though the judge handed out 15 sentences, only 14 individuals will be punished as one of the accused died during the hearing of the case.
Among those sentenced is a BJP leader, who was a member of the terror group in question.
The case involves a nexus between government officials and members of the Dima Halim Daogah (Jewel) (DHD(J)), an Assam-based terror outfit, wherein public funds were diverted to smuggle arms and aid for the militants.
BJP leader among those sentenced
Among the three who have received a life sentence is Niranjan Hojai, a former militant who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last year and was elected to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC). BJP state spokesperson Bijan Mahajan reportedly said that the party is mulling over options to take the case to the Guwahati High Court so as to free Hojai.
Among the 12 issued jail terms, five have been given terms of over 10 years while the remaining seven people have been awarded two separate eight-year jail terms each.
What does the case involve?
The case involves the convicts’ misusing state funds to financially aid Dima Halim Daogah (Jewel), an Assam-based terror outfit that was disbanded in 2012 after a 15-year-long insurgency to create a separate state called Dimaraji comprising of the Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills districts of Assam. Hojai was a commander of this outfit before he joined the BJP.
The case was the first that the NIA took up in Assam, in 2009. The NIA itself was formed after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
The Assam case followed two separate investigations by the Assam police.
The first investigation was triggered by the capture of two men who were in possession of Rs 1 crore worth of cash and arms. The two men were DHD(J) cadres. After the NIA took over the case they discovered that there was a network between DHD(J) militants and elected officials wherein state funds were diverted to aid the terror outfit when it came to smuggling of arms and carrying out attacks on civilians and security forces.
The nexus was exposed from the second investigation, where members of the NCHAC were caught red-handed with the possession of over Rs 32 lakh in unaccounted cash.
Presently, with all accused in the case convicted by the special court, it is clear that anti-terrorism forces and courts in Assam want to send a strong message against militancy and all those who enable the same. The conviction of an elected BJP leader is an alarming development, and with the state BJP en route to possibly moving the Guwahati High Court to free Hojai, the case seems far from over.