The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Union Government as well as the state governments of Assam and Meghalaya in furtherance of a habeas corpus petition filed by Kaushik Phukan, son of missing United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) [ULFA(I)] negotiator Rebati Phukan. According to the petitioners, Rebati Phukan had gone missing when he failed to return from his morning walk in Guwahati on April 22. After protests broke out in different parts of the state, the state government initiated a CID investigation. However, later reports and audio messages from Paresh Baruah claimed that Phukan had been abducted by state agencies and was being kept in Meghalaya.
When the vacation bench asked the petitioners why they did not approach the High Court of Gauhati, they said that the reason is the reports and statements issued by Paresh Baruah pointing towards the possible involvement of intelligence agencies. This, they alleged, would render any investigation carried out by the CID irrelevant.
Rebati Phukan was a childhood friend of ULFA(I) Chief Paresh Baruah. Though he had never had any involvement with the Liberation Front, he had been approached by Indian intelligence agencies to convince the rebel leader to enter talks with the government. Phukan had reportedly been coordinating with R. N. Ravi, the Indo-Naga interlocutor, over bringing Baruah for talks.
Baruah has denied any involvement in Phukan's disappearance and the family appears to trust Baruah's statements. On the other hand, the role of the intelligence agencies in his disappearance appears strange considering that if Baruah were to enter negotiations with the government, ULFA's armed movement would be finished. On the other hand, Baruah's demand that sovereignty should be one of the options to be discussed is not palatable to the Indian State. Thus, keeping him away could enable the government to resolve the matter with the Arabinda Rajkhowa-led faction, while putting Baruah on the back foot in terms of manpower and movement.