‘They took my husband, killed innocent men in cold blood’
Kin Of Men Killed In Assam Fake Encounter Get Justice 24 Yrs OnRajib Dutta TNN
The wait was 24 years long. But when an Army court martial sentenced seven Army personnel to life imprisonment for a fake encounter in which five All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leaders were killed, it gave their families a sense of closure.
The harrowing memories, however, won’t go away. “It was 10.30am on February 17, 1994. Four armed soldiers and a civilian came to our house. They took my husband away. I never saw him again,” recalls Lileswari Moran, widow of Bhaben Moran, one of the five AASU leaders killed by the Army. Lileswari was 28 at the time.
Bhaben was “taken” by soldiers of Dhola-based 18 Punjab Regiment with four others – Prabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debajit Biswas and Akhil Sonowal – all from the Dangari area at Doomdooma in Tinsukia district and then killed at Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
His widow, Lileswari, now 52, has found some solace in the verdict. “Families of the others killed in the fake encounter also feel vindicated. But I personally think the guilty deserve death by hanging,” Lileswari says. She adds, “They killed innocent men in cold blood … My husband was an innocent man. We were struggling to make ends meet and the Army personnel just took him away, labelled him an Ulfa terrorist and shot him dead.”
For AASU, too, it was a battle won at long last. After the verdict, AASU members, led by organising secretary Dipankar Sonowal and family members, held a shradhanjali programme for the five AASU leaders at the Pancha Swahid Memorial situated at Dangari. The memorial was set up in memory of the five youths who were later declared ‘swahids’ (martyrs) by AASU. “We are happy that the guilty personnel have been awarded life sentence. We have been fighting for this for 24 years,” AASU leader Dipankar Sonowal says.
The long wait has not been easy on the families of the victims. “After my husband died, I had to take over all responsibilities. My in-laws were old, I had five young children but did not have a job,” Lileswari says.