Irfan Engineer writes on Indian secularism. In his recent posting, he has covered the massacre of Muslims in Assam. Here below is his piece, which I share in full:
What is happening in Assam should shame humanity and Indian democracy. Official figures of dead in Kokrajhar and Baksa Dist. (Assam) is 32. Citizens were fired upon and killed on 1st May and 2nd May for their voting choice. Unofficial sources say number of dead toll may be even higher as 31 persons are still missing and not accounted for.
The 16th General election for Lok Sabha concluded in Assam on 24th April. From Kokrajhar constituency, the candidate of Bodo People’s Front, a party of former militants, was Chandan Brahma and was opposed by a non-Bodo candidate Heera Saraniya, a former commander of ULFA, backed by the Sanmilita Janagostiya Aikkyamancha (SJA), an amalgamation of at least 20 ethnic and linguistic groups based in BTAD. He problematized 26 per cent Bodos ruling over 74 per cent non-Bodos in the BTAD. He called it revolution and not election. Voting among non-Bodos was about 65%.
Pramila Rani Brahma, BPF Minister for Agriculture in Assam and elected from Kokrajhar East Constituency gave an interview to media on 30th April claiming even before the results of Lok Sabha elections are out that this time Muslims did not vote for the BPF and therefore their candidate Chandan Brahma was not likely to win. The ministers speculation amounted to dividing the electorate on the basis of religion amounted to violation of law of the land promoting hatred ill-will or animosity on the basis of religion, an offence under sec. 153-A of IPC. She should have been immediately dismissed from the cabinet and arrested for the offence.
As if on cue, the next day, i.e. on 1st May at 7.30 p.m., 8 Bodo youth armed with fire arms riding on 4 bicycles entered a house in Narasinghbari village in Baksa Dist. inhabited by Muslims and asked, whom did you vote for, and before getting any answer they fired shots and killed 3 persons and injured two. At 12.30 a.m. on 2nd May (night of 1st May) in Balapara village part I, 20 armed militants entered and fired indiscriminately on 5 houses and killed 8 people which include 3 women, two old persons and 3 children (aged: 3, 8 and 12 years), who had obviously not even voted. On the same day (2nd May), 40 militants surrounded 77 houses in Narayanguri village (the last village before Manas National Park) and fired indiscriminately. 20 dead bodies have been found so far, 8 had to be hospitalised and 31 are still not accounted for. This has led to exodus of Muslims to safer places.
The Addl. DGP visited Kokrajhar and has requisitioned 10 companies of armed security forces but only 6 companies have been sent so far. Flag marches are being conducted on main roads by the security forces whereas people are unsafe inside villages and flag marches notwithstanding, they are scurrying to more secured places.
Who are responsible for the killings?
Media needs to name those responsible for tragedies. Quoting sources it blamed NDFB (Songbijit faction) for the killings. However, why should NDFB kill non-Bodos for not voting BPF candidate when both the organizations have a running feud and have killed each other’s cadres? Moreover, NDFB claims that they do not fire indiscriminately and have denied their role in the incident.
Assam Minister of state for Border Areas Development Siddique Ahmed has on the other hand claimed that extremist elements in Bodoland People's Front (BPF), an alliance partner of Tarun Gogoi-led state government, are involved in the recent violence in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD). About 40 surrendered youth of Bodo Liberation Tigers (now BPF) have been given arms (303 rifles) to defend themselves against NDFB militants and camped in Basbari Range Forest office. They are members of youth wing of BPF. All their expenses are met by the Bodoland Territorial Council Government. It is suspected that these youth might have attacked Narayanguri village as spent cartridges from 303 rifles were found in the village and were handed over to the police. 4 of those youth have been arrested. 5000 villagers of Narayanguri village surrounded the Basbari Range Forest office demanding that all the 40 youth be disarmed, disengaged and arrested immediately.
Bodo militants feel constant threat that they constitute only 26 per cent in the BTAD and are demanding even larger territory. They have attacked the Rajkochbanshis, Oraons and other adivasis and non-Bodos in the past for ethnic cleansing and converting their 26 per cent into a majority. Muslims are the soft target as they are vulnerable to the accusation of illegal migrants. Also sort of social consensus has been manufactured by the right wing Hindu nationalists and Assam agitation holding them responsible for all evils and threat to existence of the nation. When Muslims are attacked, there is not even a little ripple in the political establishment. The Bodo militants might be wanting to send a message to all the non-Bodos but the target the softest target they might have found were Muslims. The victims and the community they belong to have remained absolutely peaceful. Now the onus is on the state to protect them and ensure that they enjoy all the citizenship rights.
WE therefore demand:
· That the 40 surrendered militants of BLT in Basbari Range Forest Office be disengaged. Disarmed and investigated for their complicity in the attacks on Muslims in BTAD on 1st May and 2nd May 2014.
· FIR be registered against Pramila Rani Brahma for her anetment and instigation of the said attack on Muslims, investigated and brought to justice
· Secured relief camps with adequate standards be provided to the victims till they feel confident to return
· Adequate compensation to those killed and injured be provided immediately
· Illegal arms be demobilized and a sustained campaign against armed militants be undertaken till all of them are disarmed.