A day after at least two people were killed and ten injured when police opened fire on people protesting eviction from their homes in Gorukhuti village of the Dhalpur region of Darrang district in Assam, people have come out to express solidarity with the victims and survivors of the barbaric attack.
Members of the state’s Congress party took to the streets in Darang district’s headquarters in Mangaldoi city, chanting slogans against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
“We demand the immediate transfer of the District Collector and Superintendent of Police as he is the CM’s own brother for transparency in the enquiry,” said Rajya Sabha member and Congress leader Ripun Borah, referring to the judicial inquiry ordered by the state government.
Due to public outcry @mygovassam ordered Judicial enquiry under a rtd. Judge of GHC to enquire into #PoliceBrutality of Dholpur.
We demand the IMMEDIATE TRANSFER of the DC & SP(being CM’s own brother) of Darrang Dist. for transparency in the enquiry.@himantabiswa#AssamHorror
— Ripun Bora (@ripunbora) September 24, 2021
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi has demanded “swift action” against the perpetrators and “compensation” for the families of the dead and injured. He has also called for an immediate end to demonisation and displacement of Bengali Muslims.
-Rehabilitate all the displaced families
-Stop demonising Indian citizens & calling them Bangladeshi
We know from past experience that even these basic demands will not be met. At the very least, we will make it a point to remember Haque sb. 2/n
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) September 24, 2021
Meanwhile the All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) had called for a 12-hour bandh in Assam that beagn at 5 AM on Friday. According to NDTV, “No untoward incident has been reported” during this period when all business establishments remained closed and very few vehicles plied on the road.
Meanwhile, security has also been stepped up particularly in Gorukhuti where the firing took place yesterday and nearby villages of Dhalpur 1 and 3, that fall in the Sipajhar circle of Darrang District. Sources tell SabrangIndia that as many as 3,000 personnel belonging to the Assam Police and the CRPF have been deployed.
Meanwhile, the injured are being treated at the Guwahati Medcal College Hospital (GMHC) where they were shifted on Thursday night. Hospital Superintendent Abhijit Sharma told NDTV that 11 people were admitted there, including three police personnel. The state of three civilians and one policeman is said to be critical.
Land politics, communalism and NRC
One of the biggest poll planks for the BJP government was the promise of evicting “illegal encroachers” from government land and then redistributing it among “indigenous youth” to encourage “community farming”. Land is a precious commodity in the riverine regions of Assam with 7 percent of the land having been lost to river erosion.
Add to this, the allegations of an influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants and the anti-minority politics of the ruling regime and what you get is the perfect cocktail of hate and fear. This is why, despite the inhumanity of the police firing, right-wing machinery is still actively blaming the victims in this case. Some websites are also spinning the narrative of “temple land”.
For example, OpIndia claimed, “Sources in the Assam government said that Dholpur is an area with 25000 acres of land along with a 5,000 years old Shiva temple and a cave.”
Assam Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Ashok Singhal also added to the temple narrative, tweeting, “Our Govt led by HCM Himanta Biswa Sarma is committed to safeguard the 5000 years old Heritage Hindu Temple of Garukhuti, Sipajhar, Darrang Dist. We pledge to work for Encroachment Free Assam freeing all our ancient structures and temples which are captured by illegal immigrants.
Our Govt led by HCM @himantabiswa is committed to safeguard the 5000 years old Heritage Hindu Temple of Garukhuti, Sipajhar, Darrang Dist.
We pledge to work for Encroachment Free Assam freeing all our ancient structures and temples which are captured by illegal immigrants.
— Ashok Singhal (@TheAshokSinghal) September 23, 2021
This is clearly an attempt to cause communal polarisation. However, Assam has a rich history of pluralism and people practicing Hinduism, Islam and many different Adivasi and indigenous faiths have coexisted peacefully here for centuries. Perhaps the regime is frustrated by this unity and its minions in the news and social media are therefore going into an overdrive to cause communal friction.
But Owaisi wants to set the record straight. Defending the evicted families Owaisi tweeted, “People have been living in the river islands of Dhalpur, Darrang for at least 40-50 years, many since 1960s. As there was vacant land in river islands, erosion affected Muslims from lower Assam moved there. Over 7% of Assam landmass has been eroded by Brahmaputra since 1950 It’s a convenient & false narrative that the displaced are “illegal migrants”, they’re all Indian.”
He also touched upon the subject of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), accusing the government of forcefully displacing Bengali speaking Muslims despite their names being included in the NRC. “Their names are in 1951 NRC & 1966, 1970-71 voter lists. Their names now appearing in NRC is seen as huge slaps on the face of “anti-foreigner movement” NRC 2019 demolished the myth of illegal migration, all these decades they said there are 5-7m illegal migrants in Assam. But NRC excluded “only” 1.9m – out of which Muslims will be around 4-5L, that too mostly women & children – which means almost every excluded individual has family members in NRC. The reason to demand “re-verification” of NRC is also this failure to exclude “enough” Muslims.” He added, “Since they couldn’t exclude “enough” Muslims, they want to punish Bengali Muslims by displacing them.”
Support grows for Assam firing victims
Meanwhile, Assam units of CPI (M), CPI, CPI (ML), Asom Gana Morcha and RJD met at the State Office of the CPI under the chairmanship of the CPI (M) State Secretary Deben Bhattacharyya on September 23. The Parties jointly issued a statement condemning the inhuman eviction drive. They said, “The five parties register their strong protest and condemn the police brutalities and firing in the name of evictions being conducted by the Darrang district administration yesterday, September 23.” Additionally, “The five Parties also demand adequate compensations to the families of those killed and injured. The Parties demand that all evictions in the State without proper rehabilitation be stopped forthwith.”
The have also taken umbrage to how the “barbaric eviction drive at Dholpur-Gorukhuti area was started in the name of proposed Gorukhuti Agricultural Project and freeing the government land from ‘illegal encroachment’ being occupied by ‘suspected illegal migrants’ as stated by the government administration.” They go on to condemn how “the State administration branded those local Muslim people who have been residing in the area for several decades as ‘suspected foreigners’ and ‘illegal encroachers of government land’,” adding, “The administration has evicted Muslim families of the locality in most inhuman manner and the eviction drive is communally designed, illegal and unconstitutional.”
Activists and civil society have thrown their weight behind the victims and survivors of the brutal attack:
Godi Modia Kudi media pic.twitter.com/yceDTNQzXC
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) September 24, 2021
— Hansraj Meena (@HansrajMeena) September 23, 2021
ख़ुद शहंशाह के घर से निकली है,
नफ़रत की ये जो हवा है।
मेरे मुल्क़ में इंसाफ़,
अब बस एक अफ़वाह है। #HindutvaStateTerror
— सुशांत सिंह sushant singh سشانت سنگھ (@sushant_says) September 24, 2021