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. 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.
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.
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.
The Dima Halam Daoga (DHD)
has been holding talks with the Union Home Ministry. The cease-fire agreement with Adivasi
Cobra Militants of Assam continued. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.