Assam Police Firing

Even a couple of days before it hapless Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, or anybody outside a charmed circle,had any idea that they will be set upon by hordes of murderers and hate=filled fanatics. Secrecy and suddenness are the basic elements of such mass assaults on life and property of victims of pogroms.

Secrecy is no longer so important as there is fear and disarray among opposition groups kept apart from one another by electoral calculations even as these chances are increasingly set at naught by obvious plans to alter the very nature of the state.But suddenness,so that intended victims cannot prepare effective resistance at all levels,remains the key.Critics and opponents can only bewail and condemn after the event and these are met by pre-planned measures.

Very much like the Nazi KRISTALNACHT which inaugurated large-scale violence against Jews,the mass evictions of peasants of largely immigrant Muslim origin from supposedly government land have been planned and set in motion within a short span of time.

The scene was set by ringing declarations by the newly anointed Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma that the sacred land of Assam where the cow is a sacred animal will have to be liberated from the clutches of ‘foreign encroachers’ and ‘illegal migrants’.Little time was lost and people who thought the storm would blow over if they lay low faced its full fury.

On the 23rd September at about 1.30 PM a well-armed and large police force arrived at the Dholpur village No 3 in Sipaihar revenue circle of Darrang district in a flotilla of boats and started leveling down the thatched cottages where for the last fifty years generations of families have spent their lives.The semi-military nature of the campaign revealed that the armed police were not there simply to maintain peace.They were there in force as an assault party to help forcible eviction.Some local newspapers and channels claimed the alleged ‘Illegal migrants’ had first attacked the police party with lathis and sharp instruments,but unaccountably the TV footage missed this prized scoop and showed only stone-pelting by an enraged section of victims.Some policemen were injured but the casualty was small compared to the violence perpetrated on the evicted villagers.Two were left dead,and many gravely injured.By this time shocking details have been viral on the social media.There were apparently quite a few members of ‘the general public’ among the police personnel,and they are unlikely to have been there simply to see the fun.More likely they were deputed by a civilian organization to monitor the success of the campaign.Such monitoring seems to have become common.

The area chosen by the government is interestingly not a temporary fertile sandbank that frequently appear and disappear in the channel of the turbulent Brahmaputra,but a fairly stable well-settled village.Under previous governments its status as a stable settlement seems to have been recognized and in course of time it would have become a proper village.But the present government is determined to cancel the process and ‘free all such villages’ from ‘illegal occupation’.

There are many such villages in land under declared forests decimated by rampant tree-felling,now a heaven-sent opportunity for pauperized,indigent tribals,immigrant Muslims,tea labour without employment and poor Assamese to eke out a marginal existence.Natural calamities,heavy burden of debt and rapacious capitalist development animated by much-lauded ‘animal spirits’ have driven all of them to such straits.The day is not far off when they too might face an array of bulldozers and an armed police force to drive them out of such refuge.For the moment the plea is Hindu indigenes versus Muslim encroachers of foreign origin.This tickles some Assamese chauvinists,but they do not notice the government is not keen to hand over the land to landless Assamese.All such land is at once taken over by ‘agricultural co-operatives’ covering hundreds of bighas of land,and most probably being primed to be handed over to giant corporates eager to reap profit from agri-business.This probable scenario also helps expose the unfortunate knee-jerk reactions of some Bengali scribes who see in this the hand of Assamese chauvinism raised against Bengali victims.The roots are more far-reaching and they extend to the centres of Indian and foreign big capital allied with political Hinduism.The state has its destined role in this design,and it’s rapid descent from welfarism to rank oppression of working people has something to do with this ghastly incident.

There is much righteous indignation at large over an ’embedded’ photographer assaulting a prostrate man felled by a bullet,and the government has responded with equal sanctimony to the incident by booking the man.One only hopes it does not eventually dissipate in smoke like the famous case of the protester who had allegedly dishonored the country’s flag on ramparts of the Red Fort.

The latest information I have is the report of police arriving at the venue of a proposed public protest meeting in Guwahati against the bloody outrage and preventing it with the solemn declaration that at this moment they cannot allow mobilizing public opinion about the evictions!

First the farmers may not protest against their eviction.Then the public is forbidden to protest against it even though the spot is not under 144.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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