Nativist Drama

Sam Stafford

The Assam Human Rights Commission closed on 10.3.2021 the case filed by Hirak Jyoti Bora,former General Secretary,Cotton College Students’ Union and now a member of the Assamese nationalist party AJP ,against the allegedly unprovoked police firing during the night of 12 December 2019 in Assam that had killed Sam Stafford and four other youthful protesters against the passing of CAA.

The reason given by the AHRC is that there was neither any counsel nor any complainant in its court on that day when the case came up for a verdict.When there was an appeal against the drastic decision the AHRC on 12.3.2021 brushed it aside.

When I asked certain members of the family why they had not done anything about it for eight long months they replied that first they were busy getting treatment for Sam’s mother who had become mentally deranged under the shock of her teenage son’s death and secondly,they were allegedly put off by Bora’s repeated assurances that he would get things moving.Belonging to a poor family as they did,this does not sound implausible.

As to why Bora was now getting cold feet they feel that perhaps party pressure kept Bora undecided.The AJP was born out of the movement and people like us have from the beginning been holding that the forming of the party was actually a measure to gradually drain away the tremendous momentum the movement had gathered.Gradually the initial fury and fire of the movement had ebbed and TV screens had relegated it to the margins.Nationalism had become ‘sound byte nationalism’ and TV an effective tool for damping down the heat of any movement that may rock the boat for the state.

There is not a shred of doubt thatthe common people of Assam had been really aggrieved and outraged by the cynical neglect of the centre towards Assamese sentiments which upheld both secular principles and regional misgivings on CAA.

TV coverage showed young men and women defying threats from the police and the Curfew imposed by the military in an unprecedented sign of brave, righteous popular anger.Next day too people swarmed the grounds of a venue in the heart of the city in the face of a second curfew.The AASU leaders organised day-long programmes of fiery speeches and pulsating patriotic songs.The venue was then shifted to another ground somewhat cut off from crowded streets,and the same rounds of fiery songs and thundering speeches went on.

People began to wonder about the denouement and tempers slowly cooled.Belatedly, under public pressure AASU leaders declared the five young men martyrs of the movement,visited their families,offered some support and monetary help.Grand funeral ceremonies were held and discussions on the stage turned to a ‘practical solution’.A popular singer spoke on the stage about forming a squeaky clean and unblemished regional party and thereafter matters moved into this harmless exercise.The AJP was formed and it notoriously failed to win any seat in the 2019 election.

All this fits in with the loss of interest of such circles in the victims of police firing.Thus they have remained in the government’s view as mere law-breakers and their martyrdom has not been officially conceded.

Hence it was vital to bring to pass an independent inquiry on the circumstances of their death and the extent of police complicity.Witnesses speak of unprovoked police firing without proper warning and persuasion.An excess of power without any doubt.

The chain of incidents also lays bare the hypocrisey and fraud of many who try to pass off as true-blue nationalists but exploit public sentiment to cozy up to those who wield power for personal gain.How else to explain the beginning in a bang and the end in a whisper?

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

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