New Delhi: A special court of the National Investigating Agency (NIA) has convicted 14 persons, including three former militant-turned-politicians, an official of the Assam government and local contractors, under various sections of the IPC and the Arms Act. They have been accused of diverting development funds from the state’s North Cachar Hills Autonomous District Council (NCHADC) between 2006 and 2009 to procure weapons and “wage war against the state”.
As per NIA officials, the quantum of punishment will be pronounced later on Tuesday.
Formed under the sixth schedule of the constitution, the NCHADC runs the administration of the state’s Dima Hasao district.
Among those convicted by the NIA court in Guwahati on May 22 is Jewel Garlosa, head of the militant group Dima Halam Daogah (DHD-J) or Black Widow. DHD-J waged war against the state for about 15 years, demanding creation of a separate state called Dimaraji comprising the state’s Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills.
Garlosa’s was arrested in 2011 and then granted bail by the Gauhati high court on the condition that he join the peace talks, and the militant group was disbanded in 2012.
In 2013, Garlosa joined politics and was elected to the NCHADC as an independent candidate. He later joined the Congress. In October 2015, he left the Congress to join the BJP.
Two days after joining the BJP and meeting the state governor P.B. Acharya with fellow partymen to stake claim to form the NCHADC by usurping the Congress-led one, Garlosa was arrested in connection with a 2008 murder case. He was later grated bail.
In January 2016, Garlosa rejoined the Congress to help that party wrest back power from the BJP. However, after the BJP grabbed power in the state in the May 2016 assembly elections, fortunes changed for the party yet again in the NCHADC. Towards the end of May last year, BJP once again formed the NCHADC, leading Garlosa to return to the party.
Another person convicted by special Judge Rabin Phukan of the NIA court was Niranjan Hojai, also a top leader of the DHD-J. He was nabbed by the police from Nepal in 2010 and was granted bail by the state high court along with Garlosa in 2011.
Like Garlosa, Hojai too became a member of the NCHADC as an independent candidate and later joined the Congress. In October 2015, Hojai also joined the BJP and engineered both the coups against the Congress-led council. He was then made the chief administrator of the NCHAC at a special session called by the state governor.
However, the NIA by then had filed the chargesheets against both Garlosa and Hojai for diverting government funds to buy arms and ammunition to carry out attacks on security forces and rival militant groups.
Another politician convicted by the NIA court on May 22 is yet another former chief executive member of the NCHAC, Mohit Hojai. Also elected as an independent candidate, Hojai was arrested in 2009 for his alleged links with militant outfits.
In what is being termed in the local media as a Rs 1,000-crore scam, the matter first came to light in April 2009 when the state police arrested two DHD-J cadres in Guwahati with Rs 1 crore meant to buy arms. In June 2009, the case was transferred to the NIA. After Rs 32 lakh was recovered from a car in which three NCHADC members were travelling, the NIA filed another case, taking the total number of accused in both the cases to 15 (one of them died since). The NIA also recovered arms bought with the government funds.
Speaking to reporters in Guwahati after the May 22 verdict, a senior NIA official said, “All the accused were found guilty in the two cases. The quantum of punishment will be pronounced tomorrow (on May 23).”
Besides some contractors, R.H. Khan, an employee of the state’s social affairs department, has also been convicted on the charge of helping the militant group divert government funds to wage war against the state.
(On May 23, the NIA court sent Jewel Garlosa, Niranjan Hojai and Mohit Hojai to prison for life. The other accused have been imprisoned for eight and 12 years. Meanwhile, Niranjan Hojai has been suspended from the BJP.)