Guwahati, Feb 12 (TEHELKA): New Delhi tends to err on the side of quashing sustained insurgency in the Northeast with an iron hand. Armed with a draconian law in the form of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA) the security forces, at times, have committed gross human rights violation in the name of counter insurgency. Always, it has been the poor and the innocent who were caught in the crossfire.
A TEHELKA exposÃ© of the 23 July 2009 fake encounter of Chongkham Sanjit by Manipur Police commandos had shocked the world. For the first time, there was evidence. Here, now, is another case study with evidence.
On 23 and 24 July 2010, local newspapers from Assam and Tripura reported that the Assam Rifles carried out successful operations and killed a hardcore Reang militant in Gutguti village in Hailakandi district of Assam. The suspected slain militant was identified as Jatan Kumar Reang. Media reports also stated that three other Reang militants were nabbed with firearms during the operation.
Seven months after this incident, TEHELKA has accessed a special investigation report of the Assam Police, the post-mortem report, a detailed report sent to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and other classified government documents that speak of a different story.
Four Reang boys were returning home after receiving their respective payment from a bamboo merchant
While Koya Ram Reang, father of Jatan Kumar Reang, lodged an FIR at the Katlicherra police station in Hailakandi district, human rights groups, informed by the locals, brought the matter to the notice of NCPCR, since the locals said the deceased was around 15 years old. His post-mortem report says the boy should not be more then 20 years old. The NCPCR took it up with the Assam Police.
On 8 September 2010, the Assam Police sent a detailed report on the extra-judicial killing of Jatan Kumar Reang to the NCPCR. The report was prepared after detailed investigation led by Hailakandiâ€™s Superintendent of Police. A copy of this report is available with TEHELKA.
The report sent by the Assam Police is based on the investigation of two cases lodged in Katlicherra police station with regard to the incident that created tension in the area at that time. The cases are â€“ Case No. â€“ 148/2010 U/S 35 Arms Act and Case No.- 149/2010 U/S 302 IPC.
Here is a section of the report: â€œAt about 3:30 am on 22/07/2010, one person identifying himself as the CO (commanding Officer) of 14, Assam Rifles, called me up stating that his party had come to Gutguti area and someone has sustained bullet injury, who was being carried by his personnel to hospital and requested to render necessary help. The CO of Assam Rifles was asked as to why he failed to inform any of the security agencies /Civil Administration/District Police about the arrival of his force in the area. He had no satisfactory reply. The O/C (Officer-In-charge) of Katlicherra PS was directed to render necessary help. But till 11 am of 22/7/2010, when neither the Assam Rifles reported or communicated anything, the police contingent was sent to the spot.
â€œIn the night of 21/07/2010, a group of 14, Assam Rifles, camp Kanchanpur, Tripura under the leadership of Lt Col V Gaikwad consisting of Major Joseph, six JCOs and 73 jawans entered in Gutguti area of Hailakandi district of Assam in search of undesirable elements and launched operation in the area. Around 7 pm , four Reang boys namely â€“Jatan Reang,17, Muktajoy Reang, 20, Adyaram Reang, 30, and Biro Singha Reang, 26, all residents of West Gutguti Village , under Katlicherra PS of Hailakandi in Assam, were returning home from Gharmurah after receiving their respective payment from Tuta Mia, the bamboo merchant. Bamboo cutting was their main source of livelihood.
Around 10:30 pm when they reached west side Nallah below Gutguti BOP manned by 6th battalion AP, they were asked to stop by Assam Rifles personnel who were in ambush and the Reang boys were cordoned off. The Assam Rifles personnel caught hold of Biro Singha Reang, Muktajoy Reang and Adyaram Reang. One jawan fired at Jatan Reang and injured his right thigh.â€
The report next points out what the Assam Rifles did. â€œThe Assam Rifles then enquired from the boys if there was a doctor in the village. When they replied that there was no doctor and only a quack, some of the Assam Rifles personnel rushed to the village for the quack named Nabaram Reang and brought him to the spot. After the incident the Assam Rifles brought two havaldars from the nearby Gutguti BOP to the spot as well. The quack gave an injection to the injured Jatan Reang. After which the Assam Rifles troopers took the injured Reang and the other boys to Agrem in Mizoram on foot. From Agrem they started for Damcherra but the injured Reang succumbed to his injuries around 3 am of 22/07/2010. The Assam Rifles contingent returned to Agrem in Mizoram after Jatanâ€™s death and stayed the whole of 22/07/2010 there. They left Agrem at about 6 pm via Damcherra of Tripura on 22/07/2010 and arrived at Katlicherra PS at about 7 am on 23/07/2010 and handed over the body. They also handed the other three Reang boys and deposited two country made guns that they stated to have recovered from them during the search operation.â€
The boys had no criminal record and there was no mention in any intelligence report that they had links with armed militant groups
The report points out that the Reang boys were engaged in bamboo cutting for their livelihood and nowhere mentions them as suspected militants. The report also spells out that the Assam Rifles did not have a satisfactory reply to the queries of the Assam Police. The text of the Assam Police report itself explains that it is an open and shut case of extra judicial killing committed by the troopers of the oldest paramilitary force of the nation. A copy of the post-mortem report available with TEHELKA states: â€œDeath was due to hypovolumic shock following hemorrhage from ruptured right femoral artery resulted from grievous firearm injury on the right thigh caused by a firearm projectile fired at a close range.â€
The Assam Rifles had filed a complaint in the same police station under the Arms Act, filed by Subedar Hoshiar Singh of 14, Assam Rifles. But the Assam Police investigation report at no point says that the four Reang boys were carrying firearms. Assam Police sources have informed TEHELKA that investigations in both cases are on and the chargesheet is yet to be filed. â€œThe Reang boys had no criminal record and there was no mention in any intelligence report from the area that they had links with armed militant groups,â€ a top ranked intelligence officer from Assam Police added.
The 14, Assam Rifles, is one of the most potent battalions that the paramilitary has. It has immense success in counter insurgency operations in the region but this incident now raises doubts on the credibility of the force. â€œThe Battalion calls themselves The Fighting 14, but in reality they must be called The Faking 14. They are experts in staging fake surrenders and have been involved in many fake encounters. We do have information regarding their involvement in some extrajudicial killings,â€ reveals a senior special branch sleuth from the Tripura Police.