Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia



I. Overview

Ruled by the Congress Party, State of Assam continued to be afflicted by internal armed conflicts and widespread human rights violations both by the security forces and the armed opposition groups (AOGs). On 25 January 2004, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi stated that Congress led State Government brought an end to the incidents of secret killing of the relatives of the leaders of the AOGs especially the United Liberation Front of Assam and National Democratic Front of Bodoland. [1] About 121 companies of Central para-military forces who operate under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 are deployed in Assam. After a series of bomb explosions by the armed opposition groups in October 2004, Assam decided to recruit additional 6,000 policemen, two battalions of Armed Police, 4,000 Home Guards and 5,000 Village Defence Party personnel. [2]

The key armed opposition groups active in the State are the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS, anti-talk and pro-talk factions), Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA), Hmar People’s Convention (HPC), Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah and Kaplang factions), Karbi National Volunteer (KNV), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and Adivasi Cobra Militants of Assam. In 2004, a new Karbi armed group, Karbi Anglong National Liberation Front (KLNLF) surfaced in the Karbi Anglong district. [3]

The Central government and the State government of Assam continued peace efforts with many armed opposition groups in the state. Pursuant to an agreement signed in December 2003, about 1,000 out of 2,600 surrendered members of the Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT) were to be recruited in the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and the Assam Rifles. [4]

The Dima Halam Daoga (DHD) has been holding talks with the Union Home Ministry. [5] The cease-fire agreement with Adivasi Cobra Militants of Assam continued. [6] Several rounds of tripartite talks were held amongst the UPDS (pro-talk) and Central and State government representatives. Although the NDFB announced unilateral cease-fire on 8 October 2004 to be effective from 15 October 2004, talks with NDFB as well as ULFA failed to take off.

The security forces have been responsible for gross human rights violations including torture, rape and arbitrary, summary and extrajudicial executions. Though Assam State Human Rights Commission awarded interim compensation of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of ULFA cadre Ananta Roy who was killed in police custody on 22 October 1999 there was little information about prosecution of the culprits. [7] Most human rights violations by both the State and Central security forces went unpunished.

The massacre of 17 innocent children at Dhemaji district by the ULFA on 15 August 2004 demonstrated flagrant violations of international humanitarian law standards by the armed opposition groups in the state. [8] The alleged armed groups subsequently killed 49 people in the first week of October 2004, followed by further killings from 13 to 17 December 2004. The combined violence of all armed groups in 2003-2004 has reportedly declined by 24 per cent in terms of incidents (from 388 to 295) but the killings has increased by 44 per cent (177 to 255) as compared to 2002-2003. [9]

Assam continued to be plagued by ethnic conflicts especially in Karbi Anglong areas causing heavy loss of lives and displacement. About 1,25,000 persons belonging to 23,742 families who were displaced in Bodoland areas in 1996-1998 were yet to be rehabilitated.

Women became victims of serious human rights violations especially in insurgency-affected areas. The security forces targeted women for sexual violence. Although in the rarest of the rare cases of its kind, Havildar Satish Kumar and Rifleman Rajinder Kumar were court martialled and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in August 2004 for raping an Adivasi woman in Kokrajhar district on the intervening night of 29 and 30 June 2004, most violence against women went unpunished. [10]

The budget of the Assam State Human Rights Commission (ASHRC), the body established by the State government to monitor human rights situation, was slashed by 2 lakhs for the year 2004-2005. The State government sanctioned Rs 20 lakh against the demand for 1 crore which forced the Assam State Human Rights Commission to cancel investigations into the complaints. [11]

[1] . Cong has stopped secret killings, claims Gogoi, The Assam Tribune, 26 January 2004

[2] . US to Guwahati: We can get FBI to help probe your blasts, The Indian Express, 6 October 2004

[3] . New Karbi militant group emerges in Assam, The Pioneer, 17 December 2004

[4] . No similar offer for other surrendered rebels, The Sentinel, 19 February 2004

[5] . Centre calls DHD for peace talks, The Telegraph, 8 July 2004

[6] . Adivasi threat, The Telegraph, 8 July 2004

[7] . Custodial death, The Assam Tribune, 21 August 2004

[8] . Ulfa claims it carried out blast, The Asian Age, 18 August 2004

[9] . 2004 witnessed rise in ULFA killings, The Assam Tribune, 31 December 2004

[10] . Jawans get 10 years for rape, The Telegraph, 14 August 2004

[11] . Rights panel budget slashed, The Telegraph, 5 July 2004