Assam government directs army not to commit excesses
May 13, 2007 - 6:59:00 PM

Guwahati, May 13 - The Assam government Sunday directed security forces in the state not to commit excesses and ensure basic human rights of civilians during anti-insurgency operations.

'A fresh set of guidelines was being issued to the security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations to ensure that human rights of civilians are protected and respected,' government spokesman and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told journalists.

The government's decision calling for restraint comes in the wake of a wave of anti-army protests in eastern Assam following the killing of 24-year-old Buddheswar Moran last weekend allegedly in a staged shootout by soldiers of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles.

'The government of Assam is committed to protecting the rights of the people and would under no circumstances allow any kind of excesses,' the minister said.

Across eastern Assam, thousands of people blocked highways and shouted anti-army slogans over the killing of Moran. While the army earlier claimed he was a 'hardcore ULFA -' activist, locals refuted the charge and said Moran was a private guard at a tea plantation and had no militant links.

Army authorities later admitted the killing of Moran was an 'unfortunate incident' and ordered a probe. The army on its own earlier this month issued a 28-page booklet for its soldiers engaged in anti-insurgency operations in Assam and the other northeastern states.

The Indian army chief J.J. Singh in the booklet titled 'Sainikon ke liye dhyan dene yogya baten - asked soldiers to strictly adhere to the guidelines - the people that you - are working with are 'our own people', so 'when carrying out operations, behave with kindness, apply as minimum a force as possible and keep yourself under control'.

Engaged in anti-insurgency operations in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the army is under fire over frequent allegations of rights violations, torture of innocent civilians, and 'fake encounters' or staged shootouts while conducting raids.

Earlier this week, the army tendered an apology to the Arunachal Pradesh government after the state's legislators alleged atrocities on locals by soldiers while conducting raids on ULFA bases.

In July last year, the army punished Major Nishant Sharma and Rifleman Sudip Gurung after finding the duo guilty of killing a villager in custody - the court of inquiry was ordered after widespread public protests in eastern Assam.

In December, the army was mired in yet another row over torture in custody of a separatist suspect. Army authorities were later forced to apologise and order a court of inquiry after Nipul Saikia, a farmer, was picked up by soldiers and was seriously injured while in custody.

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