Centre to Assam: Let CBI probe scam in North Cachar Hills

Guwahati, Feb 22 (IANS) New Delhi has asked the Assam government to let the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe the multimillion rupee scam involving the swindling of central funds by a politicians-militants-bureaucrats-contractors nexus, union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said Monday.

‘The home ministry has advised the Assam government to get the whole thing investigated by the CBI…it is now for the Assam government to decide,’ Pillai told IANS on phone from New Delhi.

‘We have formally communicated this to the Assam government.’

The central government’s decision to recommend a CBI probe comes after the National Investigating Agency (NIA) came up with some startling revelations about the politician-militant-bureaucrat-contractor nexus operating in Assam’s North Cachar Hills district with government funds to the tune of millions going to the coffers of a separatist group.

NIA, the new federal agency to combat terror, in its chargesheet referred the matter to the central government for a CBI probe as there were government officials allegedly involved in criminal misconduct.

Assam has been witnessing a political storm over the past week with the opposition demanding the resignation of the Congress-led government over the issue. This followed media reports quoting the NIA that Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi refused permission to the investigating agency to interrogate seven ministers allegedly involved in the scam.

‘We are yet to get the central government communication and shall decide once we get the letter,’ an Assam government spokesperson said.

The NIA, in its final chargesheet submitted in the court of the special judge in Guwahati Nov 17, said elected members of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) helped the outlawed Jewel Garlosa faction of the Dima Halim Daogah (DHD-J) to siphon government funds.

The NIA was entrusted by the central government in June 2009 to investigate a criminal case after Assam police arrested two DHD-J rebels in April with Rs.10 million cash and weapons.

The two arrested rebels, Phojendra Hojai and Babul Kemprai, spilled the beans during initial interrogation by Assam police, saying the cash was handed over to them by the ‘chief executive member’ of the NCHAC, Mohit Hojai.

The North Cachar Hills district is in southern Assam where the writ of the DHD-J reigns supreme. The DHD-J in September surrendered en masse before Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

‘The main activity of the DHD-J after 2006 was to siphon off government funds through extortion with the help of elected members of the council, contractors, and government servants, in order to finance their subversive activities,’ the NIA chargesheet, a copy of which is available with IANS, said.

‘Mohit Hojai and other accused public servants, along with accused contractors, committed criminal misconduct and defalcated huge sums of money from the funds available with NCHAC, which was channelized through Hawala (illegal channels) operators in Guwahati and Kolkata to reach arms smugglers, who in turn supplied weapons to the DHD-J,’ the NIA chargesheet said.

The NIA accused 14 people in the chargesheet of whom 10 are now in jail. The two arrested DHD-J militants and a bureaucrat are out on bail. Another DHD-J leader Niranjan Hojai, named as an accused in the chargesheet, has not yet been arrested. He led the surrender ceremony in September and is presently at a government-run camp.

The state’s Social Welfare Department Deputy Director R.H. Khan, also an accused, is on bail now – charged with conniving with militants in swindling development funds in the same case.

‘Investigations revealed that a portion of funds allotted to two Public Health Engineering (PHE) departments and Social Welfare Department were utilized by the DHD-J. Rs.130.5 million was directly siphoned away from the Social Welfare Department and about Rs.30 million from the PHE department in 2009,’ the chargesheet said.

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