Recent violence in Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) of Assam has claimed at least 44 lives officially and more than ten are still missing. The nature of this violence has distinguished itself from the previous violence of 2012 which also claimed more than hundred lives. After examining the happening over more than two week, we can say with conviction that this is not a communal violence or clash between two ethnic groups. This time masterminds of violence were not been able to instigate the common Bodos to attack the Muslims. The previous violence in 2012 has perhaps taught both Bodos and Muslims that the masterminds cash on value of their lost lives and property. Now, the question arises if this is not a communal clash or even if the common Bodos have not participated in the violence than who have executed the heinous crime against humanity? In this brief essay we shall try understand the dynamics of this violence and thus to find out the answer of this basic question.
The media, both print and electronic started carrying the stories of violence only after the miscreants used automotive gun and shot one prominent journalist of the area Mr. Dhananjoy Nath. But before shooting and killing started; there were also gruesome atrocities on the marginalised Muslims happening. But the media didn’t head on to those stories either intentionally or due to inaccessibility. But the later become irrelevant, when we came to know that some of the brave local journalists and activists recorded the statement of victims and sent across to the media houses. But nobody paid attention to courage and hard work of those local journalists and activists. If the media had acted as proactively as expected; this massacre could have been averted. Let’s have an account on what actually happened between 24th of May to 30th of May i.e. from Election Day to Pramila Rani Brahma’s controversial statement and aftermath of the massacre.
On 24th of April one on duty police personnel was killed and two poll officials were injured by an angry mob. The incident occurred at Harbhanga polling booth of Gossaigaon under 5 No Kokrajhar LS (ST) Constituency owing to a rumour of EVM malfunctioning. Now the villagers think that this was meticulously plan and orchestrated by the ruling party of the council to blame the Muslims and thus to keep them away from participating in the voting.
From the very next day of general election, police started torturing and atrocities on the villagers of Hanbanga, Jamunatari, Balabara etc. Samsul Hoque, a 80 years old partially paralysed man, who was unable to cast his vote on 24th April due to his ill health, while narrating the police atrocities said “At around 3:30am I went outside for defecation, a heavily armed group started beating me up without saying a single word”. His aged wife was also beaten up ruthlessly. Mr. Hoque can’t believe that police personnel can torture the elderly and woman so brutally. Aktara Banu experienced the same cruelty at around 4 am. The police started beating her family members indiscriminately. Her adolescent girl was brutally beaten up. Her ten years old son was kicked at his private parts. His male organ is almost damaged. Now he is battling with at a hospital in Dhubri, adjacent district of Kokrajhar. In another house, a three months old infant was thrown away from her mother’s lap. The mother of the newborn baby was also beaten up and tried to strip her cloths, she screamed and runaway. But her fourteen years old daughter couldn’t save herself. She was physically assaulted. In another household, the police intentionally hit on the abdomen of a pregnant woman. It is reported that she has maximum chance of miscarriage. The story doesn’t ends here. Hundreds of houses belonging to the Muslims were torched by the police, money, ATM and other valuables were looted, and household assets were destroyed. Three adolescent girls were taken into jungle. After more than two hours they came back. They couldn’t speak out what they have gone through.
The people of seven villages were living under extreme fear. They couldn’t gather the courage to file even a first information report (FIR) against the police atrocities. After two days of the incident, local right activist and journalist approached the victims and encourage them to file FIR. One of the activists Mokhlesur Rahman says “People were extremely afraid; they were not ready to take further risk.” The chief functionary of another right based group said that their organization had approached the Assam Human Rights Commission to take sou motu cognizance of the incident. But Assam Human Rights Commission insisted on registering criminal cases with the local police first. He further said “After 16th of May, situation will worsen; people will again have to live under the mercy of police”. “Hence, going against police was a great dilemma for the victims” he added.
Still the local right activists persuaded at least fifty families to file FIR within the last two days of their engagement with the victims. In the meanwhile on 30th of April, Pramila Rani Brahma, the former Agriculture Minister of Assam who was desperately expecting BPF’s official candidate Chandan Brahma’s win to get a berth in the Tarun Gogoi cabinet by replacing Mr. Brahma, gave an explosive statement that the Muslims of BTAD area have not voted for their official candidate and that may lead to the defeat of Chandan Brahma.
The result of Kokrajhar LS Assembly Election will not only decide the fate of Pramila Rani Brahma or Chandan Brahma; but it will have a larger impact on their fight for separate statehood called ‘Bodoland’. Akbar Ali (42), a villager at Bangshibari, who is also a victim of previous sectarian violence in 1994 against Muslims, hopes that once Naba Saraniaya is elected and sent to parliament, the issues and suffering of the Non-Bodos will be raised in Parliament, which will help them to bring out the villages having more 50% of Non-Bodos from BTAD area. It is widely speculated that the age long suppression of Bodos over non-Bodos will be quite visible in the election result. Though Non Bodos are the two/third of the total population, still they are subjugated to such a level of suppression that their socio-political and economic rights have been violated each and every passing day. The present Bodo political class which emerged through an act of terrorism has used violence many times to maintain their political hegemony. In the past, the Bodo extremists attacked Assamese speaking Hindus, Adivasis, Santhals and Bangali speaking Muslims and Hindus. Many of them are still living a miserable life in the camps; some of them are living in the camps for more than a decade. In this election, these people found an opportunity to protest against the suppression, to which they have been subjected time and again. Whereas the ruling party of BTAD found that their defeat was curtained and started violence against these people. Many of the victims of police atrocities and some conscious citizens of BTAD think that the incident of Harbhanga Polling Booth was meticulously planned to keep the non-Bodos from participating in the voting.
Pramila Rani Brahma’s statement was condemned by people across the political establishment and people feared of the rerun of 2012’s ethnic cleansing which claimed more than hundred lives. Congress leader and ex-MLA Abdul Khaleque demanded Pramila Rani Brahma’s arrest. On next day i.e. on 1st of May, 2014, the first attack was on a prominent journalist of BTAD Mr. Dhananjoy Nath at around 6:45pm. He sustained bullet injury and is now undergoing treatment. The second attack was at around 7:30pm at Narshingpara , where three people were killed on the spot and two girls child got two bullet injuries and battling with her life one at Barpeta Medical College and another at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital. One of them Rashida Khatun (12) lost both her parents. Her elder sister Shamela Khatun (14) and Ramzan Ali (7) have also become orphan. Her uncle Tura Miya (25) a scrap picker doesn’t know how he will look after these kids.
The third incident happened at around 12:00am mid night, a heavily armed militant group killed eight people and injured at least four including women and children at Balapara, just few kilometres away from place where the police carried out inhuman atrocity on the wee hours of 25th of April, 2014. Mokhlesur Rahman, the right activist, who persuaded the victims to file FIR, opines that there is sufficient ground to doubt that the administrative machinery is hand in gloves with the militants in the killing of the villagers at Balapara to terrify the victims of police atrocities, so they refrain from filing FIR and thus involvement of administrative mechanism never comes to light.
On 2nd of May, 2014, in the broad day light, a group of around forty heavily armed militant ablaze nearly 70 houses and killed at least 31 people happened in Gampara near Gobordhana of Baksa district of BTAD area. The place is just few kilometres from the place Narshingbari, where three people were killed at previous night. The survivors informed that more than 50 people are still missing. Now the dead bodies are being found in downstream of Beki in Garemari, Kalgachiya of Barpeta district which more than thirty kilometres from the place of incident. This gruesome incident Administration didn’t take any precaution to avoid such attacks. Shahatan Nessa (60) , who lost her daughter and daughter in law in attack said that the villagers went to the forest office for shelter. “But they didn’t provided, whereas my daughter in law was killed while my grander daughter Amina Khatun (2) was in her lap” she said to me somehow controlling her pain and emotion. Her granddaughter Amina Khatun also got bullet injury in her belly.
Minister of Gogoi’s cabinet,Siddique Ahmed who visited the BTAD under the instruction of Chief Minister, told the newspersons that the members of ruling party of BTAD were involved in the massacre. Through press media he demanded the arrest of Smt.Pramila Rani Brahma. He also admitted the failure of the Muslim Ministers and MLA’s along with the Govt of Assam, in protecting the lives of the Muslim community. One the other hand Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi gave a total opposite statement. According Mr. Gogoi, Congress ally BPF is not involved in the massacre but NDFB(S) is responsible for the recent violation. Later on, Siddique Ahmed was recalled by chief minister over his statement. Whereas NDFB (Songbijit) straight forwardly refused their involvement in the killings and doubted the presence of third force in statement to media.
On 3rd May, 2014 Hafiz Ahmed, the chief convenor of All India Secular Forum’s Assam Chapter informed the newspersons after the Citizen’s Meet in Guwahati that the bullets were fired using guns provided to forest officials. He also alleged that Sri Khampa Borgoyary, the Deputy Chief and Executive member of Forest Dept of BTC and the Ranger of Bashbari Range office, Sri Amiya Brahma were fully involved in the massacre of Gampara. It needs to rope in here that Khampa Borgoyary had provided jobs to some surrendered BLT cadres and Youth BPF group in Manas Wildlife National Park as labourers. But those so called labourers not only possess illegal arms but also have access to arms of forest department. Mr. Ahmed added. Later on the day Amiya Brahma and at least ten of his colleagues were arrested and the remaining are absconding who were involved in the gruesome massacre of Gampara. This has actually strengthened allegation of involvement of administration in sectarian violence.
If we look at the history of Bodo Movement, it is clear that since late 80s, the non-Bodos are being targeted with a clear motive of ethnic cleansing though armed violence. Most recently, the rise of Hindutva politics, the Bodo militants and the Bodo ruling class are getting boost to attack the Muslims and the media with vested ideological and commercial inclination towards right wing political parties are trying to frame the victims as illegal immigrants.