Nagabanda Massacre and the other side of Assamese Intelligentsia

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Nagabanda High School is one of the oldest educational institutes of Morigaon district of Assam. The school is situated near the Nagabanda Bazar, about 15 KMs from the district headquarter. The healthy rural market, the nicely planted trees at Nagabanda Junior College, huge playground with pavilion and the green agricultural fields surrounding the area make it scenic and beautiful. But who knows Nagabanda is carrying a huge amount of pain and agony?

On 16th February’1983 (31st Anniversary), 109 helpless people were brutally killed in a relief camp at Nagabanda High School. The villagers of the adjoining villages were instructed by the peace committee of civil administration and police administration to take shelter in the relief camp on 16th Feb’1983 to escape from the violent attacks of the agitators of Assam Movement. A large numbers of people from neighboring villages  took shelter in the school including women and children. At around 10’o clock morning; a huge mob leaded by police personals attacked the people taking shelter in the school. The police indiscriminately fired fire on the relief camp. The frightened people closed the doors and windows of the school. Then the agitators set school on fire. Some of the people tried to escape through the windows of back side of the school; some of them climbed the trees nearby the school. But they didn’t get escape. The agitators killed them on the bunch of tree by sharp and long weapons. Total one hundred and nine dead bodies were recovered and another few hundred got injured.


Nine dead bodies were found in this newly constructed urinal of the school

The Nagabanda massacre has a great importance of study as it manifests many questions in relation to the infamous Nellie massacre. Nagabanda massacre was carried out two days before the Nellie massacre. In the both cases some of the perpetrators and victims were from common communities.  Bengal origin Muslims (Miya) dominated Nagabanda is surrounded by the villages of Tiwa (lalung), Koch and Nath-Jogi communities. In case of Nellie, Tiwas were the main perpetrators and Muslims were the victims. Here also the Muslims were the victims and the involvements of Tiwas in the violence were apparent. In both cases Muslims were victimized by the agitators as they participated in the election.

The distance between Nagabanda is around 30 kms from Nellie. But strategically, the sub-divisional headquarter (Now district) Morigaon divides the distance into almost equal. The Nagabanda incident was a warning signal for the civil as well as police administration to avert the Nellie massacre which claim 1600 lives officially, the unofficial figure is more than five thousand.


Google map: red dots refer the distance between Nagabanda, Morigaon and Nellie

The police administration was hand in glove with the agitators. One of the victims of police brutality, a school teacher from the Nagabanda one Abdul Mazid described his painful story. He said that, after returning from election duty he found his home deserted, as owing to the incident of Nagabanda High School, people had left their houses. Abdul Mazid decided to return to the police station from where he was sent to election duty. He stopped a vehicle carrying police personals and requested them to take him to police station. On returned, the police brutally beaten him up, snatched the golden bangles of wife and Rs. 800/- from his pocket. He put off his skull cap and shows the wound mark on his head. Along with him two other commuters, the post master of the local branch post office and the peon were also beaten up. The police had broken one leg of the post master.

Thus the police and civil administration broke the law and buried  humanity hand in hand with the agitators. Sanjoy Hazarika wrote “(government officers) defied the official orders and courted arrest, demanding the ouster of the aliens. If it was not xenophobia, then it was patriotism of a very jingoistic quality”. But was the school teacher, post master or the peon a foreigner? Who have their roots in this land for generations? Or why do we try to romanticise the injustice???

Though being a student of social science and having keen interest on Assam Movement, I had very little information about the gruesome genocide until I reached Nagabanda and interacted with the survivors. Senior journalist Samudhra Gupta Kashyp’s remark on Nellie massacre suddenly reflected in my mind. He was speaking in a conversation titled “Can today’s society change the media?”  organised by Thumb Print Magazine at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati. He informed the gathering that, Assam Tribune, the leading English Daily from Guwahati had had an editorial meeting and decided not to publish a single photo of Nellie massacre! Though I perceived it in a different perspective, but today, I am seeing the other side of such decision. Hundred and nine lives were brutally hacked to death during broad day light by the agitators with the active participation of government machinery but the people of the state as well as in outside remain in the dark. No doubt media played a very biased and cruel role during the agitation. The fascist characteristics of the agitation were also responsible for such gross violation of professional ethic of journalism. Sabita Goswami wrote in her autobiography that she was summoned by the then AASU leader Atul Bora. When she visited AASU office, Atul Bora showed a photocopy of her article and said “If an Assamese writes in this manner, it is equivalent to going against Assam’s interests”. Foreign journalists were also not allowed to enter Assam for a certain period of time during the movement.

This biasness still continues and has been grounded to other domains as well. If we analyse the news and views on Nellie massacre, it becomes very much clear that the academicians and researchers were not free from the ethnocentric biasness. While analysing the Nellie massacre Sanjoy Hazarika writes “They become dependent on the others. Their own shortsightedness is reflected everyday when they contemplate their former tenants as owners of this ancestral land. The rage becomes deeper, blinding those in its grip to their own follies”. Many academicians like Hazarika found land alienation as the primary cause of Nellie massacre. But when Japanese researcher Makiko Kimura asked the cause of the massacre to both attackers from Tiwa (earlier known as Lanung) and victim from Muslims of Bengal Origin (commonly known as Miya), nobody mentioned that land alienation as a reason. When I categorically asked one 78 years old Mafiz Uddin Ahmed, (who lost ten of his family members including his mother in Nellie massacre) about the issue of land alienation or land grabbing, his response was quite thought provoking. He said “When this land was allotted to us in 1942 by the colonial magistrate against the payment of rupees five, it was a jungle. Our family came to Nellie from Nogaon (Earlier Nowgong) and cleared the land for cultivation.” Ahmed’s narrative is clear enough to understand that the Muslims had not grabbed the land of Tiwas or had not alienated them from their land. But they got a jungle against payment from British government as per the policy of the colonial administration. He holds leaders of Assam Movement responsible for the massacre and says that, the AASU and the subsequent AGP government declared the attackers who died during the massacre as martyr, the so called martyr’s families were compensated with Rs. 25000/-, while the victims who lost their lives for participating in the democratic process of election were not declared as martyr and provided mere Rs. 5000/- as compensation!

Then, what is the reason of justifying riots, killing innocent human lives or gross violation of civil political and human rights? Or why do we try to cover up injustice committed upon a marginalized community? Why we can’t digest the historical fact that these so called Miyas were brought to Assam from another province of colonial India under administrative patronage?

Mydul Mullah’s Sacrifice will Go in vain? NRC updating still in Vague

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When the world was celebrating the festival of sacrifice “Eid-ul-Azha”, a family at Khandakarpara of Brapeta district of Assam has been mourning the ultimate sacrifice of their young member Mydul Mullah. Soon after the Namaz of Fazr family members and the kith and kin of Mydul Mullah assembled at his graveyard to pray for the eternal peace of his departed soul.Image

Mydul Mullah, a 25 years old youth was brutality killed by police along with four others in Barpeta on July’21, 2010. They were part of a peace demonstration demanding current modalities for NRC updation. Police fired on the demonstrators violating the police manual. It was reported that the police hadn’t handled the situation carefully and sensitively. If they wanted, the demonstration could be managed peacefully. But the police was hand in glove with the AASU goons to attack the demonstrators. The police opened fire on the picketers without any provocation. It was also alleged that police intentionally shoot the demonstrators on head, chest etc to have maximum casualty. Family member says, a single bullet went straight into the heart of Mydul Mullah, which claimed his life. They also asked, if the police was really trying to only flee the agitators, why they shoot on his heart? Why not on legs (as prescribed in the police manual)?

There are number of such unanswered questions in the mind of the family members. After his death political leaders like Maulana Badaruddin Ajmal, Himanta Biswa Sarma etc visited their house. The politicians condemned the incident and tried to console the family, assured them justice. But nothing materialised. The family is weeping for the last three years. The family, who lost their earning member for a noble cause can’t forget him for a single day. Every festival increases the absence of him badly. Elderly mother cries like anything, while the others go to Idgah to perform special Namaz of Bakri Eid. Perhaps the politicians have forgotten about their promises, but how a mother can!

After three years of the great sacrifice of Mydul Mullah, the family and the neighbours are having a serious doubt. Perhaps his sacrifice will go in vain. Though the government has postponed the NRC updation with the faulty modalities immediately after the incident; but recently government is working under the dictation of AASU (All Assam Student Union) as far as the preparation of the modalities is concern. In fact more dangerous clauses are being incorporated in the modalities to detach the name of the genuine minority Muslim’s name the state from the updated NRC. Provision of house to house enumeration, providing with the facilitators to fill up forms, provision of application for NRC updation of D voters etc are eliminated from the current modalities submitted before the honourable Supreme Court by the state government. The state government, where Himanta Biswa Sarma is a cabinet minister and who visited the family after soon after the incident assured that interest of the genuine Indians will be protected. Same story with the principal opposition of party of the state assembly, the party president Maulana Badaruddin Ajmal, who also visited the family perhaps has forgotten the cause behind the sacrifice the life of those people who lost their life in the street of Barpeta. Indeed, their death was the main force behind the success of his political career. No major initiative has been taken up by the party to uphold the sacrifice of Mydul Mullah and his fellow martyrs. The All Assam Minority Student Union (AAMSU) also not working in the pace as expected. They has become a party in the writ petition filed the Assam Public Works in honourable Supreme Court most recently. Who knows, perhaps they are also trying to erase those painful memories!

But the family members can’t forget his sacrifice. They still hope Mydul Mullah’s sacrifice will not go in vain. One day the poor people of the state will get justice.

The proposed NRC modalities: Passport to another violence in Assam

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On 12 July’ 2013, Jaydeep Shukla, Extra Assistant Commissioner to Government of Assam submitted the additional affidavit in Supreme Court of India on Writ Petition (Civil) No. 274/2009 filed by Assam Public Works, regarding updation of National Register of Citizen (NRC). The additional affidavit is more of dictation by AASU (All Assam Students Union) then any submission of a democratic government of an Indian state. AASU submitted their suggestions on May 21, 2013 opposing the earlier affidavit given by government of Assam and held a meeting with the group of Ministers to discuss the modalities and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) on July 4, 2013. The government accepted the recommendations made by AASU. The modified modalities and SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) have incorporated some perilous clauses and deleted some basic ethics and democratic values.

Surprisingly, no other organizations were invited to the meeting, not even the representatives of AAMSU (All Assam Minority Students Union), whereas they were present in such meeting before preparing the earlier affidavit.

What are in this additional affidavit?

Clause 4(b) of the additional affidavit outlines that there would be no house to house enumeration, only application forms will be distributed house to house though government machinery. This affidavit also deleted the last two lines of introductory para of earlier affidavit “the Citizenship (Registration of Citizen and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rule, 2003 prescribed for house to house enumeration of all the households as done in case of population census or in the intensive revision electoral rule” vide clause 5 (i). The point 7 of SOP submitted earlier “Distribution of forms and house to house enumeration” also deleted by clause 5 (ii) and inserted “Inviting application from the head of the family”. The new modalities outlined that the forms will be available at circle office too.

Question arises, why AASU is interested to delete the clause ‘house to house enumeration’? Is updation of NRC is not an intensive work? Does not it seem to be seriously important? The affidavit says that forms will be distributed through government machinery. If government machinery can distribute the forms house to house, why can’t enumerate house to house?

Or the house to house distribution will remain in black and white and in practical the citizen will have to collect it from circle office? Imagine, what hurdles will have to face by the people of the char areas, where there are no roads, boot is the only means of communication, where one week’s travelling will be required to collect the form from circle office! Whereas, in case of any other states such updation always done through house to house enumeration.

The expertise of AASU does not end here. The affidavit also clearly mentions that there will be no provision of any facilitator! Where more than half of the population is illiterate and they are being asked to fill up their application forms from their own? Doesn’t it put a serious question mark on AASU’s inner intention?

Clause 4(c) of the additional affidavit says that the ‘D’ voters can apply for inclusion of their name in the updated NRC. But they would be finally included in the NRC, only when they are declared as non foreigner by Foreigners Tribunal. Even though they have sufficient documents to get registered their names in updated NRC. Doesn’t this provision violet the basic tenet of Indian judiciary? They will be treated as guilty until they are proven innocent (not innocent until proven guilty!). If we look at the conviction rate of ‘D’ voters, it is found that the conviction rate is very low. Total 55184 ‘D’ voter cases were registered between 1985 to 2012 (July), out of 55184 only 6590 were declared as foreigners. The conviction rate is 8.37%. That means more than 91% of those ‘D’ voters were genuine Indian citizen and were illegally harassed. And if we link it up to the proposed modalities that more than 91% of ‘D’ voter’s name will not be included in the updated NRC with out their fault! The additional affidavit also clarifies that the pending cases at Foreigners Tribunal will not affect the implementation of NRC updation. Doesn’t it alternatively say that we are not bothered about your sufferings?

Another crucial clause is incorporated in the affidavit, which indicates that if somebody’s name is not included (not satisfied with the outcome), will have to appeal through Foreigners Tribunal only and that also within 60days of such rejection. The option of tagging competent civil court might be there, which by virtue of its competency could direct the government to pay compensation to victim if rejected illegally. But in case of only Foreigners Tribunal, the judge will not hold such power to direct the authority to pay compensation. Interestingly, this appeal process will also not link up to the NRC updation process.

Point (g) of the annexed modalities along with the additional affidavit says, “…However, persons who are originally inhabitants of Assam and their children and descendants, who are citizens of India ab initio, shall be included in the consolidated list if the citizenship of such persons is beyond reasonable doubt and to the full satisfaction of the registering authority.” Doesn’t it summarily mean that the registering authority can add any name if they wish to do so? What is the reason behind this absolute power to authority? Is this represents any of our democratic values?
A legitimate doubt comes to mind, whether AASU really wants to update the NRC or trying to keep the issue alive to keep themselves in the limelight; otherwise why they are providing such dangerous, non viable and peculiar suggestions?

Why Congress government is playing with NRC?

If we closely observe the recent political developments in Assam, it becomes very clear that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is taking some non conventional decision to be in power in the next term also. After the violence in BTAD and RHAC, the result of the panchayat poll has shown that Congress has lost ground in the minority belt. At the same time AIUDF has been becoming invincible in that belt. On the other hand BJP’s rise in the municipal election has actually threatened Congress. Gogoi is ready to change the role of the game. It seems that his nod to ULFA’s demand to declare Assam as a tribal state or accepting the suggestion of AASU on NRC updation blindly are the part of his greater political plan. He has to prove that he is more pro-nationalist than declining AGP or Sarbananda Sonowal. No doubt his power thrust may bring another bloodshed in Assam.

Why AIUDF is silent spectator?

In recent times, AIUDF is getting a boost politically after every clash or violence with minorities of the state. Be it 2010’s police firing at Barpeta or BTAD violence in 2012. If the NRC updation is preceded with the current modalities another violence can’t be avoided by any means. For a political gain AIUDF’s silence may be quite natural. Otherwise do you see any reason behind this epic silence?