Hakasam, a correspondent with the Assam-language daily Amar Assam, was abducted at gunpoint from his home in Goalpara by members of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), an insurgent group in the mountainous northeastern province waging a separatist guerrilla war with India, according to local news reports.
Hakasam’s family filed a report about his disappearance at the Rongsai police outpost in the Goalpara District of Assam on June 29, 2003. Since no body has been found and the ULFA has not officially claimed responsibility for Hakasam’s disappearance and alleged death, police have not closed the case.
However, on February 20, 2004, eight months after his disappearance, ULFA sources told police officials that Hakasam had died of unspecified “illnesses.” In fact, local police believe that lower-level UFLA members killed Hakasam long before, possibly on the day of his abduction, according to local journalists.
Hakasam’s wife, Sabitri, appears to be in mourning, according to local journalists, because she now wears a white dress in accordance with the Hindu rituals for a grieving widow. Local police believe that Hakasam’s family members may have received information about his execution from the ULFA, or from the head of their village.
CPJ sources say that state intelligence officials accused Hakasam of having contacts with the ULFA that were “too good” and claimed that ULFA field operatives would often deposit extorted money at Hakasam’s house for safekeeping. Local sources say that Hakasam may have had a disagreement with the ULFA relating to extortion money, which could have ultimately led to his death.
In November 2003, local newspapers had quoted rebel sources saying that Hakasam had been killed by the ULFA. The Journalists’ Union of Assam (JUA) organized a one-day sit-in strike on November 21, 2003, at the press club in the town of Guwahati, where Hakasam’s newspaper is published, to demand that the ULFA provide information about the journalist. The JUA also submitted a memorandum to the Assam Government and Goalpara District authorities urging them to help locate Hakasam and probe his disappearance. But, by February 2004, after the unofficial declaration of Hakasam’s death from “illnesses,” the movement came to an end.
The ULFA is not known for kidnapping journalists, but they have been blamed for the deaths of at least one other journalist, according to local journalists and CPJ research: Parag Kumar Das, editor-in-chief of Asomiya Pratidin, the largest circulation daily in Assam, who was gunned down in Guwahati in 1996, allegedly by a splinter group of the ULFA.