Minister faces CBI probe

Guwahati, Jan. 22: Gauhati High Court today ordered a CBI probe into allegations against Assam hill areas development minister Khorsing Engti of harassing two teenaged sisters by branding them witches in a bid to grab their land in Karbi Anglong district.

The order was passed by a division bench, comprising Chief Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Arup Kumar Goswami, in connection with a writ petition (civil) number 2591/2012. The bench passed the order as it was unsatisfied with police investigations into the matter.

"It appears that there is a failure of duty by state functionaries concerned and it is possible to draw inference against the minister for abuse of his position and commission of crime and, therefore, the matter may require appropriate investigation by some independent agency to uphold the rule of law," the court stated.

Senior counsel Suman Shyam, amicus curiae (friend of the court) for this case, said the court directed the CBI to conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit its report within three months. He said the court was of the view that the police had not investigated the case properly. The court also directed Karbi Anglong police to provide adequate security to the two sisters, he added.

The high court took up the case last year by taking suo motu cognisance of a letter dated May 4, 2012 written by the two sisters, Radhika Shah and Gayatri Shah, to the Chief Justice, alleging serious violation of their human rights by the minister.

In their letter, the complainants claimed that they have been subjected to physical and mental torture for the past six years with a view to grab their land, measuring 3.12 kathas, which is adjacent to Engti's residence under Howraghat police station area in Karbi Anglong. They stated that harassment by the minister's men peaked on October 30 and 31 in 2010 and patrolling CRPF personnel had to rescue them since the local police allegedly remained mute spectators.

They claimed that they were branded "witches" and accused of hiding skeletons and bones in their house to practise black magic. They were even made to consume human excreta and were undressed before the villagers, apart from their property being damaged.

The victims had earlier filed a complaint with the Assam Human Rights Commission, which then directed a police officer to conduct a probe. The report held the local police guilty of negligence in taking action and also found that harassment had taken place. The matter was reported in the media.

The high court said various documents annexed to the complaint prima facie substantiate the allegations.

The victims, while addressing reporters in February 2011, had stated that the local authorities were indifferent to their pleas and only two NGOs, Nari Mukti Sangram Samiti and Nirjatan Birodhi Aikya Mancha, had gave them support and strength to resist the oppression.

There have also been other allegations of corruption against Engti, including the multi-crore Dima Hasao fund diversion scam.

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