Would we speak of Muslim killings in Assam?

On 30 June 2017, almost two hundred protesters who had gathered together to draw attention of the Assam government towards the concerns of the citizens of the state in relation to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Doubtful voters (D-voters) issue at Kharbazaar in Assam’s Goalpara district were dispersed by the district police administration during which an youth named Yakub Ali was shot dead by the police. The religious minorities and peoples’ organisations across the state have already registered their protest against this act of police brutality. The conscious section of the news media has also been seen to condemn the viciously violent measure adopted by the police to control the protest demonstration by a small group of people. Even the television reports on how far the administration went to crush down the protest clearly shows that police firing on the protesters were absolutely unprovoked and unnecessary. Yet surprisingly the state government or the home ministry which is directly under the Chief Minister of Assam did not come out with any official statement against the incident for three days nor any representative of the government decided to go to the site of the incident to console Yakub’s family who had been killed by the police for committing the ‘crime’ of being involved in a democratic agitation. This is an absolutely unforgivable inhuman behaviour by the government. There are grounds to believe that the late Yakub and his family have been subjected to such an unjust treatment just because they belong to a certain community. It is worth mentioning that in the next few days after the incident a spokesperson of the BJP and a leader of the RSS which the current government is a mere puppet of attempted to justify the murder of a peaceful protester as well as injuries to ten or twelve people by beating around the bush in the talk-shows of a few news channels. On one hand the silence of the government on this incident of killing an innocent by going beyond lawful measures, and on the other hand the malicious attempt by a section of the leaders of the ruling camp to safeguard the police officer involved in the open killing of Yakub could never be accepted. If we do not raise our voice against such behaviour of the government as well as the ruling camp, the democratic revolutionary forces who oppose the status-quo of the state would also meet the same fate someday. Everybody would be forced to bear the oppression and repression by the state apparatus. It goes without saying that as per the project of the RSS to form a nation solely on the ground of Hindi and Hindu that believes in repressing the religious ‘others’ by force, significant steps have been made to give citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis in Assam. In line with a solely Brahmanical casteist perspective communally polarising political issues like the controversy over beef consumption have already been superimposed on the social life in Assam. As a result the progress of the national movements which have been gradually expanding in recent times to solve the fundamental problems faced by the people of Assam, such as, national opposition against big dams which is a part of asserting the citizens’ right over resources, the demand for declaring the indigenous communities including the Koch-Rajbongshis as Scheduled Tribes for the sake of social equality, the recent economic issues borne of the discriminatory treatment towards Assam by the GST Act has already been decapitated to a serious extent. We are sure that the divide-and-rule policy of the ruling dispensation is to be blamed for the aforementioned outcome. We are also sure that Assam would also be forced to witness implementation of the Indian state’s fascist policy of decapitating each and every democratic movement across caste, class and creed by police repression in order to destroy any possibility of a popular unity. It is worth remembering that in the name of subjugation, the ruling powers that believes in repression always systematically target each and every opposition camp. In this context, it is worth reiterating a relevant quote by Martin Niemöller who was one of the victims of Hitler’s fascist regime that not only murdered millions of Jews but also exiled persons like none other than Albert Einstein. Niemöller, a Christian priest and a renowned intellectual who was imprisoned by Hitler wrote:

       First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
       Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Finally, in the context of the Goalpara killing, it needs to be stated that the police administration and the ruling dispensation claim in order to save themselves that the protest demonstration took place only because of a provocation by the controversial advocate, Nazrul Islam would not be accepted by the conscientious people of Assam. Everybody knows that both the state and the central government have taken recourse to deliberate dereliction of duty to legally safeguard the consensual decisions regarding the relevant documents of citizenship to systematically and pre-determinedly obstruct the updating of the process of the NRC. The concerned parties have already discussed a lot in this matter. Even before the finalisation of the NRC which would help in identifying ‘foreigners’, both the majority and the minority camps in the state are strongly protesting against the unconstitutional amendment of the Citizenship Act to grant citizenship on the basis of religion. Nobody can deny the conspiracy of the ruling dispensation to clear the ground for communally charged incidents to take place in the name of identifying foreigners as recognised by the law would instil a sense of fear among the citizens of Assam, particularly the religious minorities. On the other hand, the question of D-voters has not been resolved in the last two decades which has invariably led to the violation of citizenship and human rights of thousands of people belonging to religious minorities. It has been published in government documents that more than four lakhs of people have been deprived of the rights of citizenship on allegation of being D-voters. Yet the data recently released by the government and the judiciary reveals that out of the 83,471 D-voter cases tried by the foreigners’ tribunals, only 5,577 individuals have been identified as foreigners. The percentage of identified foreigners in such a way is only 6.80 of the entire D-voters. It needs to be mentioned that most of the legal Na-Axomiya Muslim Indian citizens living in Assam who are randomly designated as D-voters residing in the Goalpara district. Similarly, apart from religious and minority communities, many indigenous Koch-Rajbongshi people have also been labelled as Bangladeshis by allegation of being D-voters. Therefore those innocent people could naturally be agitated. They would surely wish to be free from such a situation. Hence we would like to state this as clearly as possible that by wilfully failing to recognise the background of the anger of the people of Goalpara, the demand for punishment for the unlawful acts of brutal lathi-charging and firing upon the protesters by the police of the Sarbananda government without any attempt to peacefully resolve the situation as well as the murder of Yakub by a police officer is a bare necessity in a democracy. It is a call of time to the democratic forces in Assam across classes to be in vociferous support of this demand in order to safeguard the unity of Assam and the Assamese people. It needs to be stressed that the entire religious minorities cannot be put in guillotine just because of some irresponsible act of a Nazrul Islam.

Translated by Biswajit Bora. The article was originally published in the leading Assamese daily, Asomiya Pratidin, on 7 July 2017.



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Hareshwar Barman Written by:

Hareshwar Barman is a farmer and an activist. He has been associated with the revolutionary left movement in Assam for over three decades. Formerly, he was the president of the United Revolutionary Movements Council of Assam (URMCA).