Rebati Phukan, peace negotiator between Centre and ULFA since 1991, missing: SC told

Rebati Phukan, who has been working as a mediator between the Centre and separatist outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) since 1991 to facilitate a peace dialogue, has gone missing since April 22, the Supreme Court was informed today. Phukans son Kaushik Phukan has approached the top court saying his father has been missing since April 22 and quoted ULFA chief Paresh Baruah as saying that he may be in the custody of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) or the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) or Military Intelligence or the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as they have a rivalry amongst them. His son has filed a habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a court) petition before the Supreme Court. The plea which sought direction to the authorities, including Assam government, to produce Phukan before the court was mentioned before a bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Mohan M Shantanagoudar, which agreed to hear the matter on June 1. Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, who appeared for Kaushik, mentioned the matter before the bench and said that Rebati Phukan was a peace negotiator between the Centre and ULFA in Assam. The petitioner also urged the court that the case be transferred to CBI or any other independent agency or a special investigating team as there was a loss of faith in the local police due to its alleged lethargic conduct. Kaushik has said in his plea that despite the registration of an FIR, no proactive steps have been taken till date by the police to trace his father, who was appointed as a member of the erstwhile Peoples Consultative Group (PCG) formed by the ULFA in 2005 to mediate between the outfit and the Centre. The petitioners father has also been working directly with the Prime Ministers Office since 1991 for various peace missions between the Centre and ULFA to bring peace in Assam, the plea said, adding that Rebati Phukan had also worked in association and cooperated with the IB till 2016 on various missions in India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China. The plea said that after he went missing, Kaushik got to know from a high-ranking official of the IB that his father was closely associated with the intelligence body. It claimed they have come to know that on April 20, Rebati Phukan had attended a secret meeting with a retired bureaucrat and an advocate practising in the Assam High Court, during which a proposal memorandum to negotiate with Paresh Baruah, ULFA chief, was being discussed and the same was to be presented before Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi soon. The petitioner has said that his father went for morning walk on April 22 but did not return to his rented house, after which the landlord called Kaushik about it and a complaint was filed at a police station in Guwahati. The plea said that on April 25, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had directed the Director General of Police to immediately conduct an inquiry in the matter and a special team was formed. The petitioner also claimed that on May 4, a CRPF doctor had messaged a journalist that Rebati Phukan was treated by him at a CRPF camp in Shillong and he was safe and sound. It referred to recent media reports in which ULFA chief Paresh Baruah had said that Rebati Phukan was negotiating a fresh proposal for Baruahs faction with the Centre with help from the interlocutor with the Naga outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), R N Ravi. Baruah further made a statement stating that the petitioners father might be in custody of either Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, Military Intelligence or National Investigating Agency as they have a rivalry amongst them, the plea said. It also said that Director General of Police of Assam should be directed to file a status report giving details of the result of investigation till date. The plea also sought security to the petitioner, his family members and the journalist, who informed Kaushik about his fathers whereabouts in Shillong.