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Assam: Clean chit to former chief minister Prafulla Mahanta in ‘secret killings’ Case

The Gauhati High Court sustained its September 2018 edict absolving ex-Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta of the charges of orchestrating a sequel of extrajudicial killings more than two decades ago.

At least 400 people — family members, relatives, and sympathizers of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) — were allegedly killed by the police in collusion with the surrendered ULFA cadres between 1998 and 2001. The executions, apparently to exert pressure on the ULFA, came to be known as ‘guptohoitya’ (secret killings).

“The court’s judgment has reaffirmed my faith in the judiciary. I thank the court for upholding the truth and maintaining that the accusations against me were part of a conspiracy by some politicians and political parties to tarnish my image,” Mr. Mahanta told presspersons in Guwahati on Tuesday, a day after the conclusive judgment on the case.

The two-time Chief Minister has been ill for several months now.

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Rajya Sabha MP from Assam Ajit Kumar Bhuyan and Ananta Kalita who survived being shot in the head on September 18, 1999, for his association with an allegedly pro-ULFA youth organization had filed an instant interlocutory application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act challenging the Gauhati High Court judgment on September 3, 2018, giving a clean chit to Mr Mahanta.

The court’s June 12 order read, “…not only have the applicants failed to convincingly explain the gross delay of 531 days occasioned in the filing of the appeal but they have also made inconsistent and contradictory pleadings in the three affidavits.”

The ‘secret killings’ episode happened when the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), now a minor ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was in power. Mr. Mahanta was the Chief Minister and also held the Home portfolio.

The Congress government presided over by Tarun Gogoi instituted the K.N. Saikia Commission to probe the extrajudicial killings is largely been convinced to have been a major facet in the downfall of the AGP in the 2001 Assembly elections. The commission submitted its report in installments, and the action taken report was presented on October 15, 2007.

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