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Co-Written by Suraj Gogoi and Parag Jyoti Saikia

It is rather unfortunate that we have to share these questions and concerns with you, because you have been an epitome of courage and one who held human dignity above all. Marginalised people of Assam and in civil society respects you for those solidarities that emanated from your pen when they needed them the most–when we had lost our way morally. That history makes this letter a very painful one to write, however, we have to.

Is Assamese a homogenous monolith? Are all the indigenes from the same social class? Why do you ignore the class and caste question when it comes to the people who are in direct confrontation with the landless in Assam, as you suggested? Why do you categorise landless into different groups? Who do you represent when you say ‘we’?

The question of land and landlessness is a serious issue, but, are the dwellers of char-chaporis or settlers of other traditionally ‘unproductive’ areas the primary reason for such issues we face? What about water and infrastructure? Why not question the land given to Satras (not only in Majuli, but beyond), or that are with the security and army, or even the rampant encroachment by capitalist and the ruling class?

Let’s not even go to the inadequate comparison you made about the Iraq War with the case of NRC and Assam. If people in the state and other institutions are complicit to the human rights violations and adhere to passivity and denial, which they are certainly, someone has to point it out, even if they are ‘outsiders’. There were ‘insiders’ too, who spoke of the same, but were bullied, suppressed and threatened.

Since when have you come to consider any legitimate bureaucratic structure as sacrosanct? Aren’t we still a democracy where people are free to question about the social life of our country? We should all remember the four Supreme Court judges, including Ranjan Gogoi, coming out to the press to address their concerns and the health of judiciary. Your misplaced judgements about people who are questioning and demanding basic human rights and dignity are preposterous. Infact, you categorise them as a homogenous monolith. Justice is thrown out of the equation. You know too well that questions of human rights are far away from justice, where the later is the ideal and the former is the basic, however, you see the former as ideal.

You invoke the Assam Accord, but didn’t the Assam Accord also point out about ‘international agreements’ and ‘humanitarian considerations’? Are detention camps and ‘work’ permits’, respectively, a part of those efforts, now further legitimised? This is indeed an acute kind of ‘blindness’ which considers peoples grief as collateral damage.

It is now used with effortless ease that the NRC is conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court. However, it’s shocking that you do not have to say a word about the Legacy Data, particularly of 1951 and 1971 which are riddled with contradictions and exclusions of a variety. You have also ignored the everyday violence that a Muslim faces in Assam, a Kaibarta or a Mishing faces in the state. Even the Karbi Anglong case lit up social distinctions and social boundaries. Such distinction is in our bones and blood. It is very easy to be complicit, being a part of the system or being co-opted. The doubt of Assam officials remains, invariably, because Assam Movement was not only a cultural and political achievement, but a psychological one too which sedimented certain constructs and identifications of the Other.

It also appears that you seem to stress on the fact that Muslims that HAVE been included in millions. What do you mean? Should they be left out? You also go on to say that ‘many’ and not MILLIONS have been left out.

In the same breath, you have tried to create a separate entity of hatred by suggesting the hatred towards the Muslims in Assam is different from that in North India. It appears as if you are taking pride in being mildly racist and xenophobic. Discrimination is discrimination. Hatred is hatred. Violence can also be symbolic. Period.

**Suraj is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at National University of Singapore and Parag is a doctoral student in Anthropology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

2 Comments

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    These are difficult questions that make rulers uncomfortable ……if these were thought of earlier, Assam woukd have been peaceful long time ago