NIA Court Convicts One for Life in 2014 Mass Killing of Muslims, Assam

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The special NIA court, Guwahati, on July 8, 2016, sentenced Pradip Brahma for life imprisonment in the Balapara mass murder case. On May 1, 2014, 7 Muslims were gunned down by allegedly terrorists belonging to the NDFB (National Democratic Front of Bodoland) at Balapara under Gossaigaon Police Station, Kokrajhar.  The Special NIA Court, Guwahati set a precedent on July 8,  2016 by convicting Pradip Brahma to life imprisonment. This is the first time in history of Assam that murderer of mass violence has been punished for killing Muslims. There were as many as 25 other accused in the case, however.

The FIR (FIR No 155 of 2014, Gossaigaon Police Station) filed by Md. Sayed Ali and two others alleged that 20-25 Bodo miscreants equipped with sophisticated arms entered the house of Batchu Saikh and complainant Mohammed Sayed Ali and resorted to indiscriminate firing killing seven persons. The victims were mainly women and children.
Four women, two children and one male became victims of unprovoked targeted killing. The NIA filed charge sheet against Pradip Brahma under sections 120B, 121, 121A, 302, 307, 386 r/w Sec 34 of IPC and Sec 16, 17, 18 and 20 of UA (P) Act. The NIA press release can be read here.

Since 1983 Assam has seen a spate of massacres of the minorities with bouts of mass violence against both Muslims and Adivasis having become part of a cyclical pattern. Successive governments have been indifferent towards this suffering and slaughter.
On February 14, 1983 around 500 Muslims were massacred in Chaolkhuwa, and four days later independent India saw its most brutal mass killing when, on February 18,1983 more than 3000 Indian Muslims, mostly women and children were slaughtered in a span of just over six hours.
The victims were branded as Bangladeshis as if that justified the massacre. As many as 688 cases were filed in connection with the Nellie massacre; the Police submitted charge sheets in only 310. The remaining 378 cases were closed after a final (closure) report said there was no evidence against those accused.
Finally, all cases were dropped when the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) came to power under the chief ministership of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. Hence the impunity against perpetrators continued as not even a single person responsible for the killings was punished despite these being mass killings of the minorities, read Muslims.
A one member Tiwary Commission was constituted by the then Congress government after the Nellie killings to investigate the cause of massacre. The Commission submitted a 600 pages report, but no government has had the commitment to transparency and accountability to make the report public.
Post Nellie, Assam saw a chain of targeted violence in the now BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts) area. In 1993 more than 100 Muslims were massacred in Kokrajhar, the survivors, today, 23 years later, still live in relief camps. A majority of the victims have been denied any compensation whatsoever.
A year later, around 100 Muslims were massacred in Bashbari, now in Baksa District. In 1996 in the districts of Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon more than 200 Adivasis were massacred and around 2 lakhs were displaced, and many victims from the Adivasis communities still live a life of deprivation and suffering in relief camps.
In 1998, around 50 Adivasis were killed, leaving around 80000 homeless. In 2008 Muslims were targeted again, this time in Udalguri around 70 innocent Muslims were massacred.
In 2012 in the districts of Kokrajhar and Chirang more than 100 Muslims were killed and more than five lakhs were left homeless. The targeted violence did not stop there. On  May 1, 2014, 7 Muslims were gunned down by NDFB terrorist at Balapara under Gossaigaon Police Station, Kokrajhar.
On May 2, 2014 in a small village NK Khagrabari,  forest guards and terrorists, allegedly affilitated to the dreaded NDFB, mercilessly slaughtered 38 innocents Muslims, 22 were children. On May 7, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi declared that the case will be investigated by National Investigation Agency (NIA), but the case was handed over to NIA after as many as 83 days.. In December 2014 around 70 Adivasis were again murdered all over Assam on the same day.
In this long list of targeted violence against Muslims and Adivasis one thing is common-  not even a single perpetrator has been e punished in any case of mass murder except one.
Therefore, when on July 8, 2016, when a special NIA court at Guwahati sentenced Pradip Brahma to life imprisonment in the Balapara, this cycle of immunity appears to have, for the moment at least, been punctured.
Before this conviction all murderers right from the Chalokhuwa and Nellie massacre had enjoyed an absolute impunity. Every time either Muslims or Adivasis became victims of massacres, the perpetrators were let-off. This impunity only encouraged another massacre, that’s how mass violence became part of a cynical cyclical pattern in Assam.
Had murderers of Nellie been punished, had due process of law been followed, hundreds of innocent people would not have been killed with such impunity. In the Balapara massacre case the victims bravely deposed before the court against the terrorist. They are the real heroes behind this historic verdict. We hope their tribe grows.

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