This is a statement by 11 Assam’s academics and activists based in New Delhi and Guwahati on the killing of five innocent people at Kherbari in Dhola of upper Assam’s Tinsukia district.
We strongly condemn the terrible incident of the mindless killing of five working class Bengali people–Shymal Biswas, Subul Biswas, Anath Biswas, Dhananjay Namasudra, Avinash Biswas–who were mercilessly gunned down on November 1 at Dhola in Tinsukia district of Assam.
Initially, the media attributed this heinous act to the ULFA (I). However in a statement issued by the outfit it has claimed that it has no links to the said act of cold blooded killings. As we are writing this statement fingers are shifting towards the peace-talk faction of the ULFA and the police has detained Jiten Dutta and Mrinal Hazarika on suspicion of instigating/enacting the killings, given the incendiary statements recently given by the said members threatening to target Bengali community if the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) was to be rammed in by the government.
From the ground, the lone survivor of the killings in Tinsukia last evening, Sahadev Namasudra stated that the gunmen were in military fatigues and spoke in Hindi. Meanwhile the KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi in a press conference has demanded a high power investigation team consisting of two acting High Court Judges to look into the incident and solve it within a week’s time.
His proposal of the team comes in the context of regarding people’s suspicions about the government’s complicity in the incident. On the other hand the Chief Minister of Assam has assured that the government will take to task anyone who issues instigations, provocative and hate messages.
In the context of the ongoing attempts by the BJP government to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, there has been continuous venom spewed by the ultra nationalist leaders and organisations of both the Assamese and the Bengali communities.
The cold blooded killings of the above mentioned five Bengali youth has to be read in this immediate context, though Assam has had a prolonged history of ethnic and nationalist conflicts and mass killings. The desperation of the ruling government before the 2019 general elections and its longstanding vision to carve a Hindu nation out of India, and to smoothly pass the Citizenship Bill clearly informs the current step towards ‘return’ of Assam into a political chaos filled with conflict and killings.
The pushing of this unconstitutional Bill by the RSS and BJP at the Centre, as an ideological and pragmatic necessity, despite wide spread protests against it, including Assam Bandh on 23rd October, lays concrete grounds for such conflicts to sharpen.
The chauvinist nationalism of the local right wing of the dominant communities, which seeks to continue the polarization on ethnic lines also propagate and benefit from such a situation. The pan Indian nationalist right wing forces and the deep State seeks to mint the overlaps between the two. Here the Bajrang Dal and other wings of the RSS continue to be active collaborators.
While the state police have rightly detained Mrinal Hazarika and Jiten Dutta for their provocative and hate-informed statements recently, it has refused to regard with any seriousness the continuous hate-filled, threats and communal statements given by BJP MLA Siladitya Deb who remain unchecked.
Further the BJP Union Minister of State for Railways, Rajen Gohain responded to the incident by advocating the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) as a safeguard against a possible future when “a day will come when we will be ruled by the Bangladeshi Muslims”.
The fallout of this venomous ethnic and religious polarization is always against the toiling sections of the population. While condemning the killings, we must hold the State responsible, which is giving protection and encouragement to ethnic chauvinist and religious communal forces. It is also an urgent need of the hour for political forces in and outside Assam not to make unsubstantiated and insensitive statements on the incident, which can further deteriorate the situation.
We appeal to all to maintain restraint in the words that they utter keeping in mind the volatile nature of the situation in Assam and help each other in maintaining calm and peace and resist the divisive murderous forces that put the lives of the people in danger.
– An independent judicial inquiry be instituted on the incident.
– Siladitya Deb and such people who are continuing to spew communal and ethnic tension be arrested
– The Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) must be immediately scrapped
Amrapali Basumatary, Academic and Activists, Delhi
Angshuman Sarma, Research Scholar, JNU
Ankur Tamuli Phukan, Youth Activist and Researcher, Assam
Bedabrat Gogoi, Research Scholar, JNU
Biswajit Bora, Academic, University of Delhi
Bonojit Hussain, Youth Activist and Researcher, Assam
Debarshi Das, Associate Professor of Economics, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Guwahati
Mayur Chetia, Activist, New Socialist Initiative (NSI)
Nayanjyoti, Activist, Krantikari Naujawan Sabha (KNS)
Samudra Sangkha Gogoi, Research Scholar, Delhi School of Economics
Tonmoyee Rani Neog, Research Scholar, JNU