GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has acquitted six individuals who were accused in the 2004 Dhemaji bomb blast incident on Thursday. The decision comes following the accused’s appeal against the verdict of the Dhemaji District and Sessions Court.
Earlier in 2019, the Dhemaji District and Sessions court had found six individuals – Dipanjali Burhagohain, Muhi Handique, Jatin Dubori, Leela Gogoi, Prashanta Bhuyan, and Hemen Gogoi – guilty and subsequently convicted them under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder), in addition to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
In his judgement, Judge Sutham Das had awarded Burhagohain, Handique, Dubori and Gogoi life imprisonment and were additionally fined Rs 10,000 each. The remaining two individuals -Bhuyan and Hemen – received a four-year jail term and were required to pay a fine of Rs 2,000. Eight accused had been acquitted then.
The case dates back to August 15, 2004, when a bomb explosion had rocked the Dhemaji district during Independence Day celebrations, tragically claiming the lives of 18 children. The incident, orchestrated by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), had occurred within the precincts of Dhemaji College’s playground.
In 2015, Anup Chetia, the then general secretary of the proscribed militant outfit, had admitted that the blast “was a big mistake”.
Speaking to a national daily after being released on bail from Nagaon jail in December, 2015, Chetia had said that some cadres of the outfit had actually targeted the Central paramilitary force personnel in the parade and the bomb had been planted accordingly. But on the day, instead of the paramilitary forces, the organisers asked school children and their mothers to sit in that particular area.
On August 18, the tripartite peace talks between the pro-talk faction of the banned outfit, government of Assam and the Centre was resumed in New Delhi. While discussions between the pro-talks ULFA faction and Centre began as early as 2011, a final resolution has yet to be reached. The faction alleges that progress has been slow since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power, despite being at an advanced stage during former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure.