The state government of Assam under Himanta Biswa Sarma was on an eviction drive against ‘illegal encroachers’ from land.
Going back in time during the Partition of India in 1947 and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, waves of immigration rose. There were around two million refugees that entered Bengal from Bangladesh and later trailed into Assam where they spread to other parts of the valley, especially the Darrang and Cachar districts. Census reports reveal that nearly a million people came from undivided Bengal to Assam between 1911 and 1941 and settled on vacant or wasteland. These people were cultivators and turned the land into profitable rice-growing areas, and with their new prosperity bought good farmland from Assamese landowners. They took over the broad, fertile plains of the Assam Valley, working as farm laborers for the happy-go-lucky Assamese farmers and landlords, and chiseled a powerful pathway for themselves in the economic life of the area.
Soon after the Independence of India, the Assamese Hindu middle class gained political control in Assa as well as the prosperity of the immigrants from Bangladesh grew thus a movement called Bongal Kheda erupted with a slogan of “Drive out the Outsiders!”, a postcolonial movement in India, which mainly aimed at purging out non-native job competitors (primarily middle-class Hindu Bengalis) by the job-seeking Assamese. The story is told that the state government of Assam under Himanta Biswa Sarma picked on the vibes of local Assamese displeasure of “outsiders” including the Bengali Hindu middle class in their state. It was on these grounds that he assumably set up an eviction drive against ‘illegal encroachers’, Muslims in this case, from land which the state government aimed to repossess for a state farming project. What the chief minister was doing in actuality was fanning the communal fires once again for personal benefit by stirring up old Assamese aggression against anyone who entered their state for a fear of losing jobs, benefits, culture, and identity.
Here are five points that make the Assamese horror very different from others:
Deliberate Fake Stories Set Out By Higher Sources: Wild stories flew around by fake news machinery agents on social media that these 800 families were Rohingya Refugees and even called them “Jihadis” who were encroaching the land. This was a total lie because the Rohingyas took refuge in India in 2017 after the Myanmar Massacre. These 800 Muslim families were of East Bengal origin living in that area in the land for over forty years and were farmers and cultivators of the land by profession. They held Aadhar cards and were treated as Indian citizens, not until a government decided to criminalize them and distort their credentials.
Another fake story running like wildfire through the fanatical circles was that ten thousand rioters were ready to ambush the police and this was why the police opened fire! The truth is Thursday’s eviction drive is the latest in a series done in the last three months at Dhalpur, a village that is populated mostly by Muslims of East Bengal origin. In a huge eviction drive conducted on Monday, the Assam government claimed to have ‘reclaimed’ 8000 bighas of land, and this left at least 800 families homeless. The first round of eviction was conducted in June.
The villagers earlier too were displaced near flooded lands and dwellings submerged during floods, so this time, they firmly declared they would not budge until they were told where they were to be shifted. It is reported that the administration sent an eviction notice to residents of Kirakota Char late on Wednesday night. There was a protest on Thursday morning, after which the administration reportedly “promised that the villagers will be rehabilitated before the eviction”. But when the activists left the area, the police opened fire on the protestors, residents said. On their resistance, violence ensued, they took up sticks, and then finally shots were fired by the cops killing two including a 12-year-old boy who was on the spot on his way to collect his Aadhar Card.
These 800 families had lived in this location for forty years, and earlier houses and mosques were torn down.
What protocol orders firing to the chest of a lone man coming running with a stick @DGPAssamPolice @assampolice ? Who is the man in civil clothes with a camera who repeatedly jumps with bloodthirsty hate on the body of the fallen (probably dead) man? pic.twitter.com/gqt9pMbXDq
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) September 23, 2021
While this video shared with certain people gloating over the police action against the people, even here, one cannot see anyone attacking police directly. It is noted they had sticks which they were brandishing and they did throw stones. In this video, the cops ran up to them but the mob did not attack the police when they ran towards the villagers. However, the fake news cell is spreading that ten thousand of them ready to ambush cops thus the police shot at them.
Some Supporters Are Justifying the Shooting Suggesting It’s Alright If You Shoot A Refugee:
This is the murderous mob of infiltrators and encroachers that the #Assam police had to deal with. This is why India needs a nationwide, watertight NRC. Nice job, @himantabiswa. pic.twitter.com/G5k6c5mlYH
— Abhijit Majumder (@abhijitmajumder) September 23, 2021
The last whisps misty humanity seem to be disappearing and soon the nation will be covered over in a smog of darkness when state brute force is justified and glorified. Supporters of the state shootout even went on to say that having an Aadhar Card doesn’t prove you’re an Indian citizen when they got to learn that the 12-year-old who was killed was on his way to get his Aadhar Card. It appeared they were trying to win an imaginary argument that if a person is a refugee, the government has the right to shoot them!
Unnatural Barbaric Act By Assamese Journalist
Journalist Bijay Shankar Baniya looked psychopathically insane when he jumped over the dying man who was shot in the chest, taking his last breaths. It was one of the saddest and most barbaric videos seen. It is said that Bijay Shankar Baniya was arrested and this was only after massive public outrage. The video below shared by Darab Farooqui shares the chilling visuals of the poor man taking his last breaths while Bijay Baniya jumped on him. What is worse is sections of the BJP supporters are normalizing it and people will soon get desensitized and start justifying barbarism as the norm because the whites, blacks, and grays will all merge in together. If one cannot detect savagery in its raw form, we will get submerged into a culture of blackness without any light.
Journalists are supposed to stand on the pillars of truth and righteousness to strengthen and steady a nation, not on frenzied hate and communal violence and this new breed of journalists are going to sink the nation with fabricated, emotional, subjective rage. This is the first time in India that a journalist has actually jumped on the body of a dying person, on the side of the police shootout. Journalists always report what’s happening, they may water down truths, mellow some, and distort others, but never before has a journalist attacked a dying person or done a dastardly act like this, and journalism is degenerating into sinking sands.
Darab Farooqui below shares the horrific video of the journalist jumping on the dying man taking his last breaths.
Dear @KamalaHarris this is what is happening in India right now. The police, the media is busy desecrating the body of a dying Muslim A Muslim who is being forced out his home, who is trying to protect his family Hope the progress continues on global issues.#HindutvaStateTerror pic.twitter.com/OLxtgJXQ7j
— Darab Farooqui दाराब फारूक़ी داراب فاروقی (@darab_farooqui) September 24, 2021
The young man, Moinul Haque, who was shot at by the police and then jumped on by the frenzied journalist Bijay Shankar Baniya, was the sole breadwinner of his family. Moinul Haque’s father said he saw the video of his son on a mobile phone late last night. But earlier that day he said the body was hung upside down on a jcb truck and dragged away. The father said brokenly the only breadwinner in the family died leaving behind his wife and two children.
This was not an ordinary incident that propelled state action. The chief minister, along with his brother was involved. The connection of the CM and the SP is not coincidental and brute force was planned, anticipating resistance from the families. Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma – who is chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s brother who was overseeing the case tweeted, “Nine of our policemen were injured. Two civilians were also injured. They have been shifted to the hospital. Now things are normal,”
Assam Became a Police State for Political Gain, Not in the People’s Interest:
A human right’s committee’s report accused the BJP government of “unleashing its pro-corporate agendas in terms of the [three controversial] Farm Bills” through Project Gorukhuti and of “playing a shrewd communal agenda to divide the people” by claiming that a large chunk of the evicted land belonged to a Shiva temple. Chief Minister Mr. Sarma also wrote: “We also offer prayers at Shiva temple to seek Lord Shiva blessings. A short temple management and local people to set up a Manikut, builder guest house and boundary wall. All steps should be taken to turn the temple into a tourist attraction.” (sic).
Reports wildly spread against the 800 were to justify their violence and provoke public anger, which is not working for them, because most of the nation is angry with the “state terror” unleashed by the Assam government.
The Village Cultivators Were Misrepresented by Calling Them Many Objectionable Names
The 800 families were simple farmers but are falsely portrayed as “terrorists” and invaders who “took over a land.” After the evictions, even their mosques were broken down and the Muslim residents at Dhalpur gathered for prayer at the site where their mosque is in ruins and it was heartbreaking to see some of these people crying and praying. One visual showed a man breaking down during his prayers at the mosque’s broken ruins.
One journalist reporting on this wrote, “Just got back from one of the toughest reporting assignments. The emotions I felt and witnessed today were so raw and disturbing. Yet they weren’t angry (I am) as much as hurt by the govt action of displacement and blank firing. Their things were strewn all over the field.”
She also wrote I’ll leave you with photos of this river from which they are currently drawing water to drink and cook. This is where they said the govt allotted them land. What they most fear is when the river swells, these makeshift homes will be submerged making them homeless all over again.”
She also said, “Moinul’s name is in the NRC and had an Aadhaar card, the lack of which has left lakhs of residents in Assam feeling dispossessed.
He was shot point-blank on camera despite his citizenship credentials.
— Makepeace Sitlhou (@makesyoucakes) September 24, 2021
Just got back from one of the toughest reporting assignment. The emotions I felt and witnessed today were so raw and disturbing. Yet they weren’t angry (I am) as much as hurt by the govt action of displacement and blank firing. Their things were strewn all over the field. pic.twitter.com/VzIrp7fQoT
— Makepeace Sitlhou (@makesyoucakes) September 24, 2021
I’ll leave you with photos of this river from which they are currently drawing water to drink and cook. This is where they said the govt allotted them land. What they most fear is when the river swells, these makeshift homes will be submerged making them homeless all over again. pic.twitter.com/8UJ9F9uGvH
— Makepeace Sitlhou (@makesyoucakes) September 24, 2021
The initial operation of evictions started in June. State Congress leaders also said that executing an eviction drive during the pandemic is “inhuman and a violation of Supreme Court directives”.
Assam Congress president Bhupen Kumar Borah told Hindustan Times that the Assam government is “behaving in an autocratic manner to evict the residents of Dholpur who have been living in the area since the 1970s”.
“Before eviction government should have arranged for rehabilitation and alternative housing… These residents are mostly cultivators and their source of sustenance is being attacked. A government’s job is to work for the welfare of people and not create problems for people by making them homeless. Congress warns the BJP government not to indulge in actions that will turn Assam into a police state,” he added.
The government should not endorse brute force on people. These villagers are normal, simple farmers, not terrorists, but unfortunately some government forces in order to justify their violence on people use the word “terrorist” to their benefit and get away with anything.
Land encroachment is common in India from all kinds of people, generally, the poorer strata of society and of any religion commonly living on empty uninhabited lands, near riversides, roadsides, forests, and many other locations. Does land encroachment justify the state shooting at the encroachers? Does encroachment justify a massacre? With justifications such as these going on, without any apology but the glorification of the act, violence has become the norm. Some Assamese people assert that the Muslims from outside are “spoiling our culture.”
Why I call the Assam horror different from other horrors is here is a journalist who is a frenzied fanatic, a chief minister who is polarizing the people openly without shame or restraint, revealing an open aversion to Muslims, inexcusable from a man of his high position, and a group of people who want to “preserve their culture” revealing to the world that the only culture they are nurturing is a culture of violence. The only culture worth preserving is the culture of humanity, which is the highest culture of all, and is the only culture that prospers a nation.