- Suboor Saifi
An Eviction of Humanity
On September 24, Indian Prime Minister Modi while addressing the United Nations General Assembly, opined that extremism as a political tool laced with regressive thinking must understand that terrorism is equally a threat to them as well. He was alluding to the self-elected Taliban government in Afghanistan. Ironically, at the same time, thousands of miles away in his own country, a macilent young man was being gunned down by the police. The lifeless body of the man was then showered with blows of batons, followed by a man trampling on it. The extremely disturbing visuals of this gruesome act flooded the internet when the PM was giving sermons to the world leaders on humanity. This caused a stir among the netizens who were curious about the crime this man had committed for the fate he met. When the story unfolded, it quashed all notions of governance the Indian government preaches, as it turned out that you can get killed in India, if you are an alleged encroacher named Moinul Haque.
Land and Bullets
In the state of Assam, a cauldron of ethnic tensions for decades, the government initiated the Garukhuti Project, which aims to remove encroachers from 25,595 acres of land on a massive sandbar close to the Brahmaputra river and start agricultural and other allied activities for “indigenous people”. This is seen as a malicious attempt to replace people settled on the hinterland, who are mostly Bengali speaking Muslims, with the ethnically Assamese people.
This is a part of the Government’s communal agenda, under the leadership of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who presented it as a way to free up land for the “indigenous” by ousting “illegal settlers”
Expectedly, rhetoric that dehumanizes people as “illegals” or “termites” or “Bangladeshi immigrants” also legitimizes social prejudice and hate, and paves the way for violence.
On 23, September, under the same project, the local administration and the police under the garb of “Eviction drive” marched towards the villages of Dhalpur 1 and 3 deep inside Assam’s Darrang district which is inhabited by around 800 Bengali speaking Muslim families who have been living on this tract of land for decades. The locals claim that most of them were not given any notice regarding the eviction so that they could at least move the little belongings they had from the tin sheds they called home. As the excavators razed off the traces of their existence the police went rampant and resorted to destroying places of worship and burning homes. In retaliation to this unlawful hounding, the evicted locals gathered in a human chain to protest the forceful eviction drive. Residents said that their representatives were in discussion with the district administration to negotiate a proper relocation site for them apart from the 1000 bighas (133 hectares) that had been allotted close.
What followed next was a mayhem that nobody anticipated.
The police, in order to disperse the protesting citizens, fired directly toward them, leaving many seriously injured. This led to a direct scuffle between the locals and the police, even though locals outnumbered the police, the police were equipped with firearms which they were keen to use till the last bullet in their armoury. The man in the viral video was Moinul Haque who is seen wielding a cane towards the police party and getting shot at point-blank, whilst his dead body is subjected to further barbarism at the hands of the police and the photographer Bijoy Bania accompanying them. Anyone would wonder how fatal the cane could get against tens of armed policemen. This signifies the lopsided power equation and the dominance one section enjoy at the behest and assurance of the state. The entire brawl claimed the lives of two citizens including a 12-year-old Sheikh Farid who was on his way back home from the local post office on Thursday after collecting his Aadhaar card while leaving more than eight seriously injured. Three policemen also suffered injuries.
Terror and trauma
This act of violence is being criticized by people all around the world. Indian ambassador to Pakistan was summoned by the government of Pakistan to record their condemnation over the issue. Amid this outpouring support from different institutions, the victims cannot be assured of the reparations as the entire state machinery is vehemently neglecting the injustice they suffered while being continuously keen on justifying its wrongdoings. This is happening under the leadership of newly elected CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is being touted as the face of Hindutva and Right-wing politics in the Northeast, banking on widespread religious and ethnic conflicts in the region. All of these flow as an outcome of the divisive policies of the government at the centre. When Home Minister Amit Shah called these alleged “illegal settlers” termites, comparing a large population of the state with pests and rodents, it certainly marks a prelude to snatching the little rights they have.
By Suboor Saifi