Guwahati: Four Army officers, including a major general and two colonel, besides four soliders, were sentenced to life imprisonment by an Army court on Sunday. The judgement comes 24 years after a fake encounter in which five leaders of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) were killed by the Army in Dangari village of Tinsukia district in 1994.
The current CM of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal, was the president of AASU at the time of the extrajudicial killings.
The Army court pronounced the sentence to the military personnel at the Army’s Dhinjan base situated in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.
The fake encounter was orchestrated in 1994 when the Army picked up nine men from different places of Tinsukia district on February 18 on the suspicion of killing a tea garden official. Five of them – Parabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debajit Biswas, Akhil Sonowal and Bhaben Moran – were killed.
After the incident, the then AASU vice-president and now BJP leader Jagadish Bhuyan had filed a petition in the Gauhati High Court on February 22, 1994.
Speaking to EastMojo, Bhuyan expressed his gratitude to the judiciary system which, he said, reinforced faith in democracy. “The Army has not even spared their top officials. It is an exemplary judgment which will have an impact in the other ongoing investigations into extra-judicial killings in the Northeast.”
The court martial began on July 16, after the Central Bureau of Investigation indicted them for staged killing. It ended on July 27 this year.
In the case, widely known as the ‘Dangari encounter’, Major General AK Lal was earlier dismissed from service, but the Armed Forces Tribunal restored his retirement benefits.
The others to face action are two serving officers, Colonel Thomas Methew and Colonel RS Sibeiren; JCOs who became honorary captains – Jagdeo Singh and Dileep Singh; two jawans, Naik Albindhar Singh and Naik Shivernder Singh.
The decision of the Army court is not final yet as the seven personnel have legal options. The order also has to be confirmed by the Army headquarters.