Assamese Editor Ajit Kumar Bhuyan Attacked

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July 21, 1998

His Excellency Atal Behari Vajpayee
Prime Minister of India
Office of the Prime Minister
South Block
New Delhi 110 011, India

 

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is extremely alarmed over an assault by armed men on the home and office of Assamese editor Ajit Kumar Bhuyan on July 18. Bhuyan was threatened, his residence ransacked, and his family terrorized by the incident, which is the latest in a series of arrests and threats made against Bhuyan in recent years.

Bhuyan, the editor of the Assamese-language weekly newspaper Natun Samoy, was at home with his family in Guwahati on Saturday at around 8.45 p.m., when a group of about 20 armed men in civilian clothes surrounded his residence. They shouted at the family in Hindi to come outside and threatened to open fire if the order was not obeyed.

Ajit Kumar Bhuyan

 

Once the occupants left the house with their hands raised, the armed men forced Bhuyan to accompany them inside the house. They searched and ransacked the entire three-story building, which also houses the offices of Bhuyan's newspaper. According to Bhuyan, nothing was taken from the residence or the office.

Bhuyan later told reporters that he felt his life was in danger and that he was being targeted because of his newspaper's criticism of the Indian Army in Assam.. "I strongly feel that the Army has become a constant threat to the lives of honest Indian citizens who have been speaking out for the oppressed masses," he said.

After the raid, military authorities in Assam faxed a letter to local newspapers denying responsibility for the incident. "It is likely that some people may be operating in various places posing as Army personnel and conducting 'raids'," the fax said. Bhuyan was informed privately by local police officials that they had no prior knowledge of or involvement in the raid, despite laws that require army units to be accompanied by local police or magistrates on investigative raids.

Bhuyan believes that those who participated in the attack were soldiers because they spoke Hindi, which is not the local language, and because he recognized one of the men as an army captain. Other than the brief denial sent to the newspapers, no official statements explaining the incident have been made by police, military, or governmental authorities.

As a well-known journalist in Assam, Bhuyan's stinging attacks on the Indian army and local corruption have frequently brought him into conflict with the government. He was arrested four times in 1997 under various national security laws. He was arrested the same year for complicity in the kidnapping and murder of social activist Sanjay Ghosh. In each instance, he was released and never tried nor convicted of any crime.

The current attack on Bhuyan has a chilling similarity to events prior to the 1996 murder of Assamese editor Parag Kumar Das, with whom Bhuyan worked closely. Before he was killed, Das had been repeatedly charged with crimes for which he was never tried and his home was raided by military authorities. His murder remains unsolved.

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, the Committee to Protect Journalists decries the harassment of Bhuyan We fear that without immediate intervention by higher authorities, Bhuyan may be killed. We respectfully call on Your Excellency to use the powers of your office to launch an immediate investigation into the raid on Bhuyan's home and office and to make the findings of that investigation public.

We look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely yours.

Ann K Cooper

Executive Director



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His Excellency Atal Behari Vajpayee
Prime Minister of India
Office of the Prime Minister
South Block
New Delhi 110 011, India
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