Special Reports

Mushawarat delegation visits Assam

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New Delhi: All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat issued the following report on 4 August 2012:

A delegation of representatives of some leading Indian Muslim organisations visited Assam during 31 July - 3 August 2012 to study and assess the situation in the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) and adjoining areas where over three lakh persons have been displaced, over 50 killed and over a hundred are reported missing as a result of ethnic cleansing aimed at uprooting Muslims from BTC areas.

The delegation, led by Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, President of All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (AIMMM), included Mr Mujtaba Farooq, President of Welfare Party of India, Mr Muhammad Shafi Madni and Maulana Muhammad Rafiq Qasmi, both national secretaries of Jamaat-e Islami Hind, Mr Navaid Hamid, General Secretary of Movemenf for Empowerment of Muslim Indians, Dr Taslim Rahmani, President of Muslim Political Council and Hafiz Rashid Chowdhry, Vice President of AIMMM.

The delegation interacted with many people and groups in Guwahati, BTC areas and Dhubri, visited a number of camps in Cherang and Dhubri areas and met representatives of BTC and Bodos as well as the Chief Minister Mr Tarun Gagoi and Mr Abdul Muhib Mazumder, chairman of Assam State Commission for Minorities.

The delegation feels that there was a clear failure on the part of BTC and state government in anticipation and control of the situation now staring us in the face in the shape of over three lakh refugees in around 300 refugee camps in BTC areas and Dhubri. Most of them are Muslims. Sections of media and chauvinist circles, especially BJP and its ilk, are trying to turn this carnage into an issue of illegal immigrants which is not correct or fair. No one we met in Assam from Government to Bodo to Muslim victims made or supported this claim.

Using some criminal incidents in which both Muslims and Bodo were killed, Bodo armed gangs systematically attacked Muslim villages, indulged in at random killings and firings which precipitated flight of Muslim villagers who are not armed unlike other ethnic groups in the area. State government is providing some ration while a lot of other needs, especially hygiene, are neglected. Inmates in camps told the delegation that they are eager to return to their villages provided security is provided to them. A former MLA of the affected area told the delegation that it is “a sin to be born Muslim in Assam”. The delegation saw that even the camps are without security and found that one of the camps it visited is not getting even ration aid. The delegation was told that one person had died in Tilwara camp due to hunger. The delegation saw army presence only in Bodo areas of Kokrajhar. Proper lists of the displaced are yet to be prepared and FIRs have not been lodged in most cases, where remains of burnt houses were visible here and there during our visit to the Kokrajhar area on 2 August but we also witnessed normalcy and peace in the area with Muslim men and women moving about in calm. There were reports also that Bodos are bulldozing houses and ploughing farms of the displaced in some areas.

The delegation made it a point to meet Bodo and BTC leadership and was able to meet in Kokrajhar town Bodo MP (Rajya Sabha) Biswajit Daimary and Daneswar Goyori, member of the legislative assembly of BTC. They put the blame squarely at the door of armed gangs which the BTC is not able to control because home department and Police are controlled by the state government and not by the BTC, they said. They stressed the tradition of good relations between Muslims and Bodos and said that the area depends on Muslim workers and labour, hence its progress will suffer badly if Muslims do not return quickly to their homes. They agreed that displaced people should be able to return quickly to their homes but stressed that security must be provided to make this possible, permanent police pickets should be placed at sensitive areas and numbers of police stations must be increased as the area is undercovered by police.  

The delegation met Chief Minister Mr Tarun Gagoi who explained the practical problems in providing security in a state suffering from various armed movements and insurgencies, and said that arms are flooding into Assam from China and Nagaland. He assured the delegation that he is keen to secure an early repatriation of the displaced people to their homes and said that he has designated 15 August at the deadline for achieving this aim. He said that security will be provided, permanent CRPF pickets will be placed at sensitive places within days as troops are being recalled from the neighbouring states of Manipur, Nagaland and Bihar for this purpose.  Mr Gogoi emphatically denied that there are “foreigners” in Assam and stressed that the present crisis is a local one triggerd by local issues. He told the delegation that about a hundred culprits have already been arrested.

The delegation also met Mr Abdul Muhib Mazumder, head of the Assam minority panel, who explained the Bodo accord and BTC and informed the delegation that ten petitions against the accord are pending in Guwahati High Court. He said the problem is that 70 percent of the BTC population is non-Bodo. He promised to send a fact-finding team to the displaced persons camps.

The delegation also carried to Assam relief for the victims, which is being distributed according to the needs of the victims through local organisations and volunteers. More relief will be sent by these organisations in the coming days. Other Muslim organisations too are engaged in relief work.

Before returning to New Delhi, the delegation held a press conference in Guwahati which was well-attended by print and electronic media.

The delegation feels that the current violence is clearly a continuation of Bodo chauvinist attempts to expel the non-Bodo majority from the “Bodoland”. This is made possible by vast amounts of illegal arms in the hands of Bodo and non-Bodo individuals and gangs while Muslims in particular are not known to keep illegal arms.

The delegation believes that the following steps are necessary to tackle this issue on an equitable permanent basis:
  • Adequate compensation to all affected, for lost lives, injuries and damage to houses to enable the victims to rebuild their homes and lives;
  • Quick rehabilitation of all displaced people by arranging their speedy return to their original places. Any delay will only mean that the displaced will never be able/allowed to return to their homes and lands. It is a known fact that victims of similar previous violence, e.g., in 1994, are still languishing in refugee camps while their lands and homes were usurped by Bodo chauvinists.
  • Victims in the camps are ready to return to their homes and lands provided security is ensured. BTC representatives too said that they have no problem with the return of the displaced people provided their security is ensured. Since this is the responsibility of the state government, it should ensure this at the earliest in addition to provision of more police stations and forces in the BTC areas.
  • Illegal arms in the hands of private individuals and gangs is a big problem in BTC areas. Meticulous mopping by the army and security forces of the homes and other installations, offices and facilities in the BTC areas should be conducted at the earliest in order to seize all illegal arms because these illegal arms are being used freely by outlaws to inflict such savagery and pain on their neighbours.
  • Institution of a high level judicial enquiry to find the causes of the violence leading to displacement and murder of such large number of people in BTC areas, and punishment of the guilty.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2012 on page no. 13

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