Life term for 4 in 2004 Assam blast case

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Six persons were convicted by a local court in Assam on Thursday, in the 2004 bomb blast case, of which four were given life term and four years of rigorous imprisonment for two others.

Ten school children and three others had died in the blast triggered by Ulfa militants on August 15, 2004 in Dhemaji college playground in eastern Assam, where they had gathered for the Independence Day parade.

Eight other accused, however, were acquitted due to lack of evidence about their involvement in the case.

The court of district and sessions judge, Dhemaji, in its judgement convicted the accused - Muhi Handique, Jatin Duwari, Dipanjali Gohain, Lila Gogoi alias Lila Khanok for life imprisonment and Prashanta Bhuyan and Hemen Gogoi for four years of rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 5000 each.

All six persons were out on bail and were taken into custody soon after the court's verdict.

Wait for justice

The court verdict provided relief to the family members of the victims, who had demanded death penalty for those involved in the gruesome attack on children.

"Our faith on judiciary prevailed today and we thank the judiciary. The case went through lots of tribulations due to political pressure but today finally justice prevailed," Nitya Saikia, an advocate based in Dhemaji, who lost his two sisters in the bomb blast, told DH over phone.

Saikia's two sisters - Aruna and Rupa studied in class X and Class VII respectively, when they were killed in the attack. "I was in class XII then and after the attack, I decided to study law and fight for justice for my two sisters. Today, our family feels a little relieved," he said. Saikia said those convicted in the case were Ulfa linkmen. 

Blow to Ulfa

The killings of the school children on the Independence Day celebrations resulted in public outpouring against Ulfa, a militant group, whose "armed movement for sovereign Assam" was at its peak in 2004.

Dhemaji also saw widespread protest against the oufit, even as the district was believed to be a stronghold of Ulfa. The militant organisation had denied its involvement in the attack but the outfit admitted its involvement five years later (2009) and sought apology from people of the state.

Calling it a blunder, Ulfa leader Paresh Baruah had described the incident as "the most tainted chapter of Ulfa’s revolutionary history.”

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