NEW DELHI, Dec 28 � At a time when the UPA Government at the Centre is under pressure to revoke the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, the killing of three youths in Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border by the Army, in what could be alleged case of fake encounter, has sent the Centre into a tizzy.
Reports pouring into the Home Ministry about the incident that took place on the intervening night of December 25-26 is likely to put the army in the dock, as emerging details suggest that the three youths appeared to be innocent and not ULFA cadres, as alleged by the Army.
Officials in the Home Ministry admit that the incident that evoked sharp public reactions leading to blockade of national highway NH 37 and NH 38, may not be what is being projected by the Army but a case of gross misuse of the AFSPA. They fear that the Centre may come under pressure to revoke the AFSPA.
Interestingly, the Centre had extended the implementation of the legislation for another year, last month. The entire State of Assam and a 20 km wide belt in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya bordering Assam have been declared as �disturbed area� for a period of one year under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
Union Home Minister, P. Chidambaram had explained the areas where the Disturbed Area Act and AFSPA have been extended are indeed insurgency infested. �Therefore the notification has been extended and we are also holding talks. As and when more groups talk to us we will enter into settlements, we can certainly lift these restrictions,� he had said
According to sources, after initial claims, the Army has not been able to convince satisfactorily about the veracity of its contention that the three youths were ULFA cadres. All that it has to prove its claim are the two .22 pistols, a 9 mm and a grenade and six demand pads of ULFA besides three bodies of the slain youths.
The troops belonging to 26 Maratha Light infantry Regiment claimed it allegedly came under fire. The three suspected rebels were reportedly trying to flee on their motorbike in Namsai on Sunday night after firing at the patrolling troops.
Col MS Chouhan, the commanding officer of the 26 Maratha Light Infantry Regiment on Monday told the local media that when the rebels were asked to stop, they tried to escape by opening fire. A gunfight followed and the trio were killed. A 9 mm pistol, a .22 pistol, a Chinese grenade, 3 mobile handsets and some incriminating documents were found on the deceased militants, he claimed.
Sources said that youths identified as Dhiraj Duarah, Shiva Kumar Moran and Janak Moran did not appear to have any links with the outlawed ULFA, as alleged. Of the three, only Janak Moran had a criminal background. All of them were on their way to attend a wedding feast, when they were killed in an encounter.
Families of the deceased have refused to take the bodies, which have been lying in Tinsukia district�s Makum police station after post-mortem since past four days, even as tensions have escalated in the area.
Residents of Mutapung and Barekuri villages, along with members of local organisations, have claimed that the youths had no links with any militant outfit. The people have been demanding a judicial inquiry into the matter and immediate punishment for the army personnel involved in this alleged fake encounter.
Sources observed that local people normally do not protest much if genuine ULFA cadres are killed in encounter by security forces unlike the recent incident, where two NHs have been blocked.
Interestingly, the anti-talk faction of ULFA has also denied that the trio belonged to the outfit.
An e-mail said that of ULFA security forces put arms and ULFA pads, seized earlier from other insurgents and claimed that the slain youths were ULFA militants.