Hate Campaign!

Ram Puniyani

The Sipahijar incident of violence occurred as the state Government of Assam led by BJP’s Himant Biswa Sarma had ordered the eviction of the area, where people have been living from last many decades. Almost immediately after assuming office, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced the resolve of his government to remove these “encroachments”. He has not explained why only the settlements populated largely by Muslims of Bengali origin were chosen for demolition. The Government took the decision to evict them and to settle the native people there. These are families which have been displaced due to riverine erosion on one hand and periodic targeted violence against them on the other.

The migrants, the ‘Bengali speaking Muslims’ are generally regarded as foreigners by the communal party, while as a matter of fact, the coming of Bengali speaking Muslims to Assam has a long history, starting from the British ‘plantation programme’ to inhabit the vast empty tracts of Assam and to reduce the population pressure of Bengal. The present policy of state shows the intense bias against Muslims. Surely there are other areas where natives (read Hindus) could have been settled. The same bias was seen in the humongous and wasteful exercise of CAA, in which 19.5 Lakh people could not prove their citizenship as per the norms set by the Government and interestingly around 12 lakh of these hapless ‘non citizens’, were Hindus.

Human rights groups like Citizens for Justice and Peace have been working in Assam for quite some time to help people of all faiths to overcome the hassles created by the complex citizenship crisis. They point out that Bengali-speaking minorities are the most vulnerable as many of them are dubbed “Bangladeshi” or “foreigner” by this regime.

Those families displaced from Siphjhar claim that they were just informed the night before and in the morning the demolition of their households and burning of their meagre possessions started. There was no resistance initially and the area was evicted. In the second half of the eviction there was some resistance. The Government is putting the blame on the PFI for instigating those whose houses were being crushed. Here comes the issue of the biased and prejudiced attitude of the police. Could that lathi wielding men not have been controlled by this large police contingent? Was the firing needed at all? And firing on upper part of the body which is done as a desperate last measure was resorted to for a man equipped with a stick!

What about the 12 year old boy who was returning from the post office with his Aadhar Card? Did he deserve a bullet to ‘control’ him? The facts are absolutely shocking. The training of police as ‘friend of people’, as the ones’ to control the crime and not to attack the innocents; seems to have been given a go by. It seems biases rule the roost and marginalized sections of society are looked down as ‘enemies’ to be given cruel treatment at the slightest pretext. Many police commissions have been set up for reforms among the police force, to make them more sensitive but it seems the prejudices are overcoming all humane sentiments, the biases are making this force to behave like the way they did in this case.

The Government is supposed to be the guardian of the people. The people staying in the area from last many decades and making their living by growing odd things or doing other petty jobs are victims also of the vagaries of nature. This is an area where the changing courses of river Brahmaputra forces these ‘children of lesser gods’ to keep seeking shelter in different areas from time to time. It’s not that the earlier Governments were too sensitive to survival needs of these marginalized sections, but with the sectarian nationalists coming to power the insensitivity to the poorer sections is in full display.

Last few years have seen the rise in the Hate, and the major focus of ruling party at the centre and in Assam have made it a point to regard all Bengali speaking Muslims as foreigners, eating on natueal resources and so deserving a fate which many victims of cow-beef lynching or love jihad have experienced through the killings which are a shame on India’s glorious traditions of pluralism, diversity, and ‘acceptance and celebration of the other’.

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Vol. 54, No. 19, Nov 7 - 13, 2021