Swadhinata Phukan: victim of extrajudicial execution

Swadhinata Phukan, alias Kabiranjan Saikia, deputy publicity secretary of ULFA, an armed opposition group was the victim of extrajudicial execution on the night of May 26, 2000.   Swadhinata Phukan was a member of the civil wing of ULFA, and was thus a non-combatant.  His death has highlighted the systematic use of extrajudicial executions as a standard method of counter-insurgency practice by the security forces.

This page has been created to highlight this heinous practice of executing persons outside the judicial process without a trial.  It will contain reports and information about this particular case.


ULFA suffers major setback
Swadhinata Phukon shot dead
By A Staff ReporterGUWAHATI, May 27- The militant outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) today suffered a major setback as its self-styled assistant publicity secretary and central committee leader Swadhinata Phukon alias Kabiranjan Saikia was killed by police in a pre-dawn operation at Gendheli village of Garumara area under Pulibor police station in Jorhat district.

In another incident six members of a Nepali family including two women were gunned down by unidentified gunmen at Pengeri in Digboi under Tinsukia district at around 1.30 am today.

Sources in Jorhat infomed that a team of police and CRPF personnel raided the official residence of officer in-charge of Upper Garumara mini-PHC, Dr Manju Rani Devi at around 2.30 am today and apprehended the ULFA leader, Swadhinata Phukon.

He was taken away blindfolded from the residence of Dr Devi by the police party in a jeep to unknown destination. Later police claimed that the ULFA man was killed in an encounter.

Sources quoting local people of the village informed that the ULFA leader had been staying in the official residence of Dr Devi for the last two months under the name of Sri Biman Bora. The villagers used to know that he was a research scholar of political science in Jadavpur University. He was also carrying an identity card in the name of Biman Bora.

The maid servant of Dr Devi said the police team interrogated the ULFA leader for about half-an-hour during the raid. The ULFA leader was heard to be requesting the police, ?Give me a one more month of time?.

Meanwhile, when contacted by The Assam Tribune this evening the Jorhat district Superintendent of Police, Sri G P Singh claimed that acting on a specific information that a top ULFA leadear would try to cross over the river Brahmaputra to Majuli islSwadhinata Pukon shot dead
and, a team of police and CRPF personnel laid ambush in Garumara area at night.

The SP claimed at around 2.00 am a youth was spotted by the ambush party on a bi-cycle. When challenged by the police the youth opened fire and was killed in the ensuing encounter. He received two bullets. He was identified as ULFA?s assistant publicity secretary Swadhinata Phukon. It was informed that a China-made pistol, three computer floppies and several letters and incriminating documents were recovered from the slain ULFA leader.

According to the SP some of the letters contained ?interesting information? about the present state of affairs in the banned outfit. He, however, declined to divulge details. The computer floppies have been sent to police headquarters here for examination.

Sri Singh claimed that the tip-off was provided by a ?top ranking chap in ULFA?.

Sources informed that Dr Devi and three other persons Akon Bora, Jyoti Das and Nilakanta Bora were picked up by police for interrogation.

It may be mentioned that of late Swadhinata Phukon was co-ordinating the propaganda operation of the ULFA and was the editor of outfit?s mouthpiece Swadhinata (Freedom). He was the brain behind the ULFA website in Internet which was later hacked by security forces. He hails from Nagaon district and was 26 years of age. He has published a few books of poems under the name of Kabiranjan Saikia.

Our Nagaon correspondent adds that Swadhinata Phukon alias Kabiranjan was born on February 3, 1974 at Khutikatia, Nagaon. He was a brilliant student. When he was in class VIII, he wrote a book Gyan Vigyanar Sarathi on general knowledge. In 1986 he published a book of poems title Rakta arati and later while with the ULFA published another book of poems Artanadar Anisha.

He joined ULFA in 1993 while studying BA in Nagaon College. He was the only son in the family of Hem Saikia.

Meanwhile, in another incident at Muganpathar near Pengeri in Tinsukia district suspected ULFA militants shot dead six persons of two families including two women at around 1.30 am. today, according to police sources here.

The victims belong to Nepali community. Police sources here said they were families of small tea growers. A group of ULFA militants served them with extortion notice about four days back and threatened them with dire consequences in case of failure to pay the amount.

As per information available, this group has no link with the central committee of the ULFA and some of them are reportedly contacting the authority for surrender.
The Assam Tribune, May 28, 2000


 Guwahati, Tuesday, May 30, 2000

EDITORIAL

MESSAGE FOR TODAY
Freedom is an indivisible word. If we want to enjoy it, and fight for it, we must be prepared to extend it to everyone.
- WENDELL WILLKIE
Swadhinata?s death and afterThe controversy surrounding the alleged encounter death of senior ULFA leader and deputy publicity secretary of the extremist outfit Swadhinata Phukon, alias Kabiranjan Saikia near Jorhat on the night of May 26 has cast a shadow on a major success achieved by the State police in its fight against insurgents in the State. The police version that Phukon was shot dead when he fired upon the security patrol which waylaid him while coming on a cycle has been challenged by the local people of the area. According to reports, the ULFA leader who was taking shelter in the official quarter of a lady doctor was picked up and taken away blindfolded and handcuffed by the police. As per reports, the ULFA leader had pleaded for his life saying that he had never been involved in any killing (as a member of the publicity wing Phukon could be considered as a non-combatant). The local people have now charged the police of killing the ULFA leader in cold blood. This has greatly tarnished the image of the police and in turn the Government. A wave of revulsion at the alleged dastardly crime of the police is already apparent from the reaction of the people. The sympathy of the people has been further roused by Phukon?s literary activities over the years. A promising poet in the making, Phukon?s poems explored his ideology of building a new Assam, his hopes, aspirations, fears etc. No doubt, this has touched a sympathetic chord in the psyche of the people with the police and the Government being caught on the wrong foot.

It is an established fact that security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations also have a hit-list of their own of dreaded rebel leaders who have been a headache to them in their operations. Such rebel leaders are generally killed by the security forces who have a nagging fear that arrests could lead to their return to the operation theatre by taking advantage of judicial processes in the country. Most activists of the armed wing of the insurgent groups know that death is imminent when caught by the security forces. The more dreaded a rebel leader, more closely death follows him. Under the circumstances, Swadhinata Phukon, who wielded the pen for the ULFA cause must have expected a more liberal treatment at the hands of the security forces. His reported assertion that he had never been personally involved in any killing is a pointer to his expectation as a non-combatant in the fight against the security forces.
 
The haste in which the Nagaon district administration ensured that Phukon?s body was cremated without any waste of time indicated the administration?s fear of the mood of the people. Phukon?s alleged death in encounter with the police also gives a wrong signal on efforts to bring the ULFA to the negotiating table. When a senior leader is allegedly done to death, the message which goes out loud and clear is that the Government is now firm in its determination to crush the insurgents without mercy and that the talks strategy is presently under wraps. This definitely reflects the upper hand the security forces are enjoying in the counter-insurgency operations in the state. However, it must be remembered that security operations have never been able to stamp out completely any insurgency so far in the country. Even senior Army officers have admitted the futility of such efforts and have suggested a political solution. Swadhinata Phukon, alias Kabiranjan Saikia could have served the cause of achieving a political solution better alive than death. Even if Phukon had really died in an encounter all we can say is that an opportunity to open channels of communication with the top ULFA leadership has been lost.

Editorial, Assam Tribune, May 30, 2000.