A delegation led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation visited the site of the Assam Police Firing in Dhalpur and has made several shocking discoveries and pertinent observations. The team comprised Politburo member Kavita Krishnan, CPIML MLA from Bihar Comrade Rambali Singh Yadav, Central Committee member and Karnataka secretary Clifton D’Rozario, Central Committee member and Assam State Committed member Balindra Saikia. They are accompanied by Bihar youth activist Ravi Ranjan, AIKS leader Jayanta Gogoi, Jipal Krishok Sromik Sangha leader Pranab Doley , Sangrami Krishok Sromik Sangha leaders Dinesh Das and Jehirul Islam.
Together, they visited the family of Moinul Hoque, the 28-year-old man, the video of whose brutal killing went viral. The horrific video showcased how police showered in bullets a man wielding a stick, and then as he lay motionless on the ground, a photographer hired by the district authorities to document the evictions, physically assaulted Hoque, even jumping upon his body!
The team met the young daughter of the deceased and found that she was “sobbing inconsolably, and had not had anything to eat or drink since the incident. The family and community are traumatised, especially children. The entire family is living under a makeshift piece of tin.”
In a fact-finding report released after the visit, CPIML asks, “What can possibly justify 17 Assam police personnel opening fire on a lone man armed with nothing but a stick?” They refuse to accept this as a valid form of crowd control, and have instead called it “encounter” and a “murder”.
The team also discovered that the evictions were carried out in complete contravention of the law that requires proper notice to be served and adequate times to be given to people who are to be evicted. “Eviction Notices have been served to some through Whatsapp calls the previous night, some got notices after eviction, and some have not yet received notices at all,” found the team and asked, “What was the tearing hurry to evict by force, without even serving notices properly?”
But most importantly, the team found enough evidence to suggest that the evicted families were not encroachers at all. “The evicted households have settlement papers dating back to 7 February 1979, showing that they have been paying occupancy charges. The government has set up Aanganwadi Kendras and schools etc. When the river floods their land, they are displaced onto government land,” found the team.
Digging deeper into the genesis of the “encroacher vs indigenous person” debate, the team finds glaring lacunae in the Land Policy (2019) and the Brahma Committee Report, both of which talk about removing “encroachers” from government land and redistributing it to “indigenous” people. They ask two very pertinent questions, that the Assam government must answer:
· The definition of “indigenous” is not provided in the policy – why are families of Bengali-descent Muslims considered non-indigenous when they have lived on the land for 4 or 5 decades?
· Moreover, erosion affected persons in Laika and Dadiya in Tinsukia who fit the BJP’s definition of “indigenous” are yet to get the government land they are demanding. Why divide erosion affected persons based on ethnicity or religion?
The communal hues of this eviction drive are stark, as is the ploy to help crony capitalists. The team observes, “The whole thing is a ploy to grab land to hand over to corporates as is already happening near the airport, at Mikir Bamuni etc.”
After careful study and assessment of ground realities, the CPIML has listed the following demands:
The CM, who is responsible for the communal eviction policy, and whose brother is the SP Darrang, who conducted the murderous attack, must resign.
Directions of the Supreme Court in its order dated September 23, 2014, in People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India [(2014) 10 SCC 635] (on police encounter killings) must be strictly complied with. There should be registration of FIR with regard to the killing of Moinul Hoque and Sheikh Farid. An independent investigation into this must be conducted by the CID or police team of another police station under the supervision of a senior officer. The police officer(s) concerned must surrender their weapons for forensic and ballistic analysis, including any other material as required for investigation.
The SP Darrang and police personnel involved in firing and arson must be sacked, arrested and charged under all appropriate criminal sections including murder, arson and attempt to murder.
No more evictions of the poor under any pretext. Instead evict the super-rich who have built resorts in forest core zones, tea companies who have occupied 6,354 acres of land to illegally set up tea gardens, encroachments by industries in tribal belts, and the BJP office built on Gov’t land in Guwahati.
Stop the communal propaganda claiming that temples are being encroached by “illegal immigrants”. In fact, at Darrang the temple has been kept safe in an area where almost 99 percent families are Muslim. The Hindu caretaker of the temple Parvati Das has also been evicted under the Land policy. If the Govt speaks of preserving sacred sites (Satras) – why is the land grab near the airport destroying the Koita Siddhi Satra near it?
Local communities are providing relief to the displaced persons but the Government must take responsibility and provide relief, including medical camps, drinking water, food, shelter, and hygiene.
All evicted persons at Darrang must be restored to their lands and their homes must be rebuilt.
Image courtesy: CPI (ML) Liberation