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India 24 November 2003

Journalist kidnapped five months ago reportedly killed by Assam separatists

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has voiced deep concern at a report that a journalist kidnapped five months ago by Assam separatists has since been killed by his kidnappers. Indra Mohan Hakasam, correspondent for the daily Amar Assam published in Assam province in India’s extreme northeast, was kidnapped in June by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).

"If the murder of Hakasam is confirmed, the political and military leaders of the ULFA must bear full responsibility," said Reporters Without Borders. The local press report of his murder comes at a time of heightened violence with more than 50 people killed in the province in the past week. The international press freedom organisation has appealed to ULFA’s chairman Aradinda Rajkhowa and military leader Paresh Barua to explain the circumstances surrounding the death of the journalist. It also condemned the fact that once again a journalist should have fallen victim to Assam’s separatist conflict.

Hakasam, correspondent at Goalpara for the Assam-language daily Amar Assam published in the provincial capital Guwahati, was abducted on 24 June by ULFA members. He was snatched at gunpoint from his home by two armed ULFA members Doleng Rava and Sanjib Rava. The journalist’s wife and two children had no news of him for five months, but recently the local press, citing rebel sources, has been reporting that he has been killed in captivity. His wife, Sabriti Hakasam, told Reporters Without Borders that she believed her husband had been kidnapped because of his independent and brave reporting. She would not believe he was dead until the UFLA provided some proof.

The Journalists’ Union of Assam (JUA) held a public demonstration on 21 November to demand that the UFLA provide information about the fate of Hakasam.

Journalists have often been caught in the crossfire in Assam’s violent conflict between security forces and separatist rebels, particularly the ULFA. At least five journalists have reportedly been killed in the north east of India in the past ten years.




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