A possible cover up of an incident involving the visit of a French tourist to click photos near a crude oil drilling site in Assam and the subsequent killing of an innocent youth in a remote place of Assam led to widespread resentment and anger amongst regional and international human rights violation monitoring groups in the year 2007 with widespread reportage in various media publication houses. The story is about six years old but renewed investigation at ground zero by Times of Assam has brought to light much new twist in the otherwise cold blooded murder of Nilikesh Gogoi of Geleky in Sivasagar by CISF (Central Industrial Security Forces) in the name of gunning down ULFA (United Liberation Front Of Asom) cadres.
The story as such centers around the visiting French tourist Viviane Dalles who is a world renowned photographer, but she hide her professional identity as found in the letter she wrote before departing to France. Upon arrival in Geleky, she was led by Nilikesh Gogoi to see around the town, tea gardens and the oil fields of an exploration giant ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) when she insisted to see the oil fields. Arising out of pure Assamese hospitality, Nilikesh was forced to ask the Commandant T.S. Chaddha of the CISF manning the industrial sector to let Viviane a chance to capture some shots. The Commandant refused to let the camera wielding foreigner in. Nilikesh Gogoi was forced to retreat. But what Times of Assam has learnt from Kunti Rani Gogoi, wife of Nilikesh,”Vivalda forced my husband repeatedly to talk to the security personals to let her in to take photos of the oil drilling site and she confidently led my husband to believe that she would publish this photos internationally to raise concern of oil spill, ground pollution and the emission from the never ending gases in the region and the resultant air pollution”.
“My husband who had nothing to do in all these and was acting on the foreigners persuasion and couldn’t say no to her demands and the accompanying Assamese friends from Sibsagar, Chandraditya Gogoi and Saumar Jyoti Mahanta but was finally successful in persuading the commandant to let her in after a brief squabble”. And what could be more horrific then the very fact that Nilikesh and his friend Bholu Gogoi were gunned down by the same commandant at wee hours that fateful night near the Atkhel Naamghar in Geleky while they were returning from Enaki Bosti in Nagaland after visiting their tea plantation and merry making with the hills people. While the third Arup Saikia sustained bullet injuries in his stomach and is a crippled man today. He survived after he pretended to lie dead after an AK-47 bullet pierced his stomach. Later on villagers came to his rescue after the CISF team fled the area.
Extensive case study into the matter with relative inputs from Kunti Rani (Former Lecturer & Present teacher of Geleky Adarsha Jatiyo Vidya Peeth) has pointed to the direct instigation of the French photo journalist for whom Nilikesh lost his life while Bholu and Arup became scapegoats in the gun fire from the CISF’s barrel. The letter which is now at the hands of Times of Assam provided the clue to establish contact with the French journalist and despite repeated emails requesting her testimony about the incident, Viviane Dalles has maintained silence till date. And above all, the photos which she reportedly took of the Geleky Oil fields was not to be found in her professional website which otherwise has ample other photographs of Assam.
Many questions go unanswered as to whether it was meticulously planned to kill the Geleky legend Nilikesh? Was Viviane Dalles really a foreigner and not a photo Journalist? What about the website she has in her name publishing photos? What about the letter written by Viviane Dalles? Did she carry valid documents while entering Assam when one knows of restricted area pass issued by the New Delhi Government? Eye witnesses account to Viviane taking numerous photos of the oil fields so obviously question arises where were they published? Was she covering up something grave then the Assamese people’s understanding? Was she gathering valuable information and was an over ground operative who was entrusted by other leading foreign Oil exploration companies wanting a stake in the Geleky oil fields in future ventures since Geleky was a known profitable oil filed producing about 3000 Gallons of crude oil in a day. Many such questions could have been investigated by agencies. Though reporters who have unbiased views took their effort to report it regionally, nationally and in international watch dogs.
The prolonged case which Kunti Rani is still fighting in the court of law against the CISF Commandant T.S. Chaddha who simply killed Nilikesh Gogoi in cold blood in an act of revenge because he had to give in to the demands of Nilikesh who was adamant to let Viviane take photos of the oil fields and later had to face show cause from higher authorities. Otherwise who would imagine that the CISF which is entrusted to protect national interest entities gets engaged in insurgency operation against ULFA and kill innocent Assamese youths?
Aamir Hazarika is Staff Reporter of Times of Assam. Hazarika is an investigative Journalist for more than a decade.