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Court Martial in Dangori Army Encounter Case Concludes After A Long Wait of 24 years

Long wait for justice

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TINSUKIA: After a long wait of 24 years, the Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) of the infamous Dangori Army encounter in which five youths were tortured and brutally killed, concluded on July 27. The SGCM had begun at Laipuli Army camp on July 16 under HQ 2 Mountain Division after CBI vide FIR no. RC-4/S/2000-CAL charge-sheeted the guilty Army personnel and survivors and witnesses disposed their statements. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) expressed strong indignation over the delay in delivery of justice and demanded stringent punishment for the perpetrators and suitable compensation for all the victims.

According to records garnered, nine innocent persons- AASU leader Prabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debajit Biswas, Akhil Sonowal, Bhaben Moran, Maleswar Moran, Gunin Hazarika, Prakash Sarma and Manoranjan Das – were picked up by the Dholla-based 18 Punjab Regiment from different locations of Dangori in Tinsukia district between February 17 to February 19,1994 and detained at Dholla camp following killing of Rameswar Singh, General Manager of Assam Frontier Tea Company at Talap TE by ULFA militants.

On February 21, 1994, the Gauhati High Court asked the Army to produce the nine persons at the nearest police station following a habeas corpus filed by former AGP minister Jagadish Bhuyan. The State DGP, Chief Secretary and even ADC to the Governor were informed. Prabin Sonowal was then acting general secretary of the AASU. According to Bhuyan, five youths were brutally tortured in the Army camp in such a manner that they were not in a position to move and so the Army eliminated them. The Army left five bodies, identified as Prabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debojit Biswas, Akhil Sonowal and Bhaben Moran, at Doomdooma police station on February 22 after Dholla PS declined to accept the bodies and released the four others in different locations. The Army reportedly took five persons in two boats to Dibru-Saikhowa National Park after crossing Dangori river and mercilessly killed the youths. Since then, two boatmen- Moka Murra and Ratna Moran – also went missing.

There was State-wide uproar following the incident. Sarbananda Sonowal, the then president of the AASU, Samujjal Bhattacharyya, Atul Borah and Keshab Mahanta staged protests demanding adequate compensation for the families and declared them as ‘Pancha Sahid’. Though the court in 2001 directed the government to pay Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the slain persons, even after 24 years the government failed to honour the court’s directive, even as Sarbananda Sonowal himself is now heading the government.

Moleswar Moran, one among the survivors who gave his statement before the Summary General Court Martial (SGCM), recently told media persons that the Army picked up the youths based on the entry record of Talap TE as most of them were engaged as garden suppliers. Though he was very hopeful of getting justice, he was living in constant fear of the Army’s harassment. He, along with other survivors, want the government and the Army should ensure their safety in future and to stop further harassment.

Meanwhile, Tinsukia district AASU general secretary Samar Jyoti Borgohain, while expressing deep anguish, demanded stringent punishment to all guilty Army personnel and suitable compensation for all nine families.

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