Gauhati HC Orders Centre to Compensate Kin of 1994 Dangari Fake Encounter

Guwahati: The Central government has been ordered by the Gauhati High Court to provide Rs. 20 lakhs in compensation to the family members of the victims in the 1994 Dangari Fake Encounter case.

At least five innocent youths were murdered by soldiers from the 18 Punjab Regiment stationed at the Tinsukia’s Dhola camp who mistook them for members of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).

The court permitted the families of the five martyrs to receive compensation, bringing justice to them after 29 years.

The murder of Rameswar Singh, the general manager of Assam Frontier Tea Company, at Talap Tea Estate in the Dangari neighbourhood of Tinsukia district by ULFA militants in February 1994 was the catalyst for the staged encounter in which five innocent youngsters were brutally murdered.

In connection to the manager’s killing, the army personnel detained as many as nine All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) activists from different places in the district as suspects from February 17-19, 1994 in Dhola.

Five of the nine activists were shot and killed in the Dibru-Saikhowa Reserve Forest.

Then-AASU Vice President Jagadish Bhuyan petitioned the Gauhati High Court for their involvement since there was no information on their whereabouts.

Bhuyan was quoted by The Hindu, “On February 21, the local police confirmed that the boys were being detained at the Dhola camp. Fearing for their lives, I filed a habeas corpus in the Gauhati High Court on February 22. That afternoon, Chief Justice S.N. Phukan and Justice A.K. Pattnaik ordered the Army to produce the arrested youth before a magistrate.”

The Gauhati High Court ordered the army to produce the men at the closest police station based on the writ petition.

Statewide protests ensued after the army displayed five bodies at the Dhola Police Station and identified them as ULFA cadres.

The deceased were identified as Prabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debajit Biswas, Akhil Sonowal and Bhaben Moran.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was then given the case, and the investigative organisation issued a chargesheet for seven army troops engaged in the fictitious incident.

The seven army personnel were given life sentences in October 2018 by the Summary General Court Martial (SGCM).

Major General A K Lal, Colonels Thomas Mathew and R S Sibiren, Junior Commissioned Officers Dilip Singh, Jagdeo Singh, Albinder Singh, and Shivendar Singh, and Non-Commissioned Officers were among those convicted guilty.

The court martial’s decision was praised by Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was also the AASU President at the time.

He was quoted by PTI saying, “It is a welcome judgement. The judgement will strengthen people’s faith in judiciary and the Army.”

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