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On the ongoing ethnic violence in Assam: A Statement

July 29, 2012

The following is the text of a Statement issued in Delhi on 27 July 2012, endorsed by a number of concerned organizations and individuals

We the people from various parts of northeast residing in Delhi, along with concerned individuals, university members, various students’, teachers’, trade union, women’s, civil and human rights organisations from Delhi, strongly condemn the ongoing ethnic conflict with serious communal undertone that has erupted in four districts (Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Chirang and Bongaigaon) of Lower Assam. This has been the most widespread and alarming conflict in the recent history of Assam.

In the last one week we have witnessed the tragedy of nearly 200,000 people belonging to the Bodo and the Muslim communities, being forced to flee from their homes and villages. Currently they stand internally displaced, and are scarred and traumatized. Official figures state that around 41 people have lost their lives so far, while unofficial estimates from the grounds are much higher. More than 400 villages have been torched down until now.This is not the first time that such conflict has occurred in this area. Various ethnic groups inhabiting the area, like the Koch-Rajbongshis, Santhalis, Oraons, Mundas, Bodos, religious minority community (Muslims), mainstream Assamese and others have from time to time been engulfed in cross-ethnic tensions and conflicts. We are also aware that abductions, extortions and sporadic killings (for both personal business rivalries and political gains) have been infesting these areas for a long time.

We understand that the eruption of this conflict is not ‘spontaneous’. Tensions between different communities have been prevailing, primarily over the questions of access to available resources. We understand that the Assam Government, the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) administration and the Central Government were very much in knowledge of the simmering tensions in this area. We believe that the lack of any action in abating pre-existing tensions has actively contributed in escalating the scale of   violence. The massive spree of arson, violence and killings would not be possible without the knowing compliance of the state.

This ongoing conflict has already inflicted irreparable damages. While lives and livelihoods have been lost, it has created an atmosphere of suspicion, mistrust, fear and hostility among the people inhabiting the four districts, especially among the Bodos and the Muslims in this context. The ominous possibility is that the psychosocial impact of this event will subsequently define the inter-ethnic relations among the population inhabiting these areas and beyond as well. The society should have the will to understand that the dent done could be so profound that it will cease to matter that this entire episode of mayhem is embedded in the machinations of various groups and state apparatuses that hold strong vested interests in instigating this kind of conflict.

Both the Bodo and the Muslim population of this area have historically been at the margins of the ‘Assamese society’. However the society at large and a section of the Assamese media as well as national media have been tendentiously pointing finger at ‘illegal’ immigration from Bangladesh as the root cause of this violence. We understand that these kinds of conflicts do not arise out of simple causalities. It is important for all of us that we steer clear from raising alarm bells of xenophobia.

We condemn the use of this moment of violence and mayhem by various groups with vested interests to drive home the longstanding demand of deporting Bangladeshi immigrants. We strongly condemn all acts of violence and destruction of human lives as a means for furthering any political interests.

We demand that:

1)      The violence, arson and killings must immediately stop.

2)      The Assam government, BTC administration and the Central Government take full responsibility for the loss of lives and livelihood and rehabilitate all those who have been displaced.

We appeal that:

1)      All sections of Assamese society play a proactive role in stopping the mayhem in these districts of Lower Assam.

2)      Leading organizations of various communities in these four districts call out for a collective resolution to restore peace and normalcy.

3)      The media, both regional and national, should be responsible in their reportage so that communitarian animosities do not aggravate further.

Endorsed by:

Organisations 

1.Manipur Students’ Association Delhi

2. Kuki Students’ Organisation Delhi

3. Hmar Students’ Association, Joint Headquarters, Delhi

4. Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights Delhi

5. Campaign for Peace and Democracy (Manipur)

6. Manipur Womens’ Gun Survivors Network

7. Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA Campaign

8. New Socialist Initiative Delhi Chapter

9. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

10. Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

11. National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM)

12. Stree Adhikar Sangathan

13. All India Students’ Association (AISA)

14. Disha Students’ Organization

15. People’s Union for Democratic Rights

  

Individuals

 1. Anuradha Chenoy, Professor, JNU

2. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Professor, JNU

3. Nivedita Menon, Professor, JNU

4. Medha Patkar, NAPM

5. Prof. Virgninus Xaxa, Deputy Director, TISS, Guwahati

6. Bhagat Oinam, Associate Professor, JNU

7. Aditya Nigam, Senior Fellow, Centre for Studies of Developing Societies

8. A.C Apam, Associate Professor, JamiaMiliaIslamiaUniversity

9. Mukul Mangalik, Associate Professor, RamjasCollege, DelhiUniversity

10. Bimol Akoijam, Associate Professor, JNU

11. Manisha Sethi, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

12. Sumitra Thoidingjam, Asst. Professor, JamiaMiliaIslamiaUniversity

13. Amit Kumar Baishya, Asst, Professor, Ball State University, USA

14. Jairus Banaji, Prominent Social Scientist

15. Amrapali Basumatary, Asst. Professor, K.MCollege, DelhiUniversity

16. Yengkhom Jilangamba, Asst. Professor, K.MCollege, DelhiUniversity

17. Kamei Aphun, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Sociology, DelhiUniversity

18. Sanghamitra Mishra, Asst. Professor, Dept. of History, DelhiUniversity

19. Roselin Sekho Chiru, Asst. Professor, MataSundariCollege, DelhiUniversity

20. Prachee Dewri, Asst. Professor, HansrajCollege, DelhiUniversity

21. Ahmed Sohaib, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

22. Nandini Chandra, Associate Professor, DelhiUniversity

23. Supeep Chakravarti, Author and Senior Journalist

24. Prafulla Samantara, Prominent Activist, Odisha

25. Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM, Uttar Pradesh

26. Major Gen. (Retd) S.G Vombatkere

27. Vimal Bhai, Matu Jansangathan, Uttarakhand

28. Gabriele Dietrich, NAPM, Tamil Nadu

29. Suhas Kolhekar, NAPM, Maharastra

30. Sister Celia, NAPM, Karnataka

31. Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgaar

32. Bonojit Hussain, New Socialist Initiative

33. Soibam Haripriya, Phd Scholar, Dept. of Sociology, DelhiUniversity

34. Subhadeepta Ray, Phd Scholar, Dept. of Sociology, DelhiUniversity

35. Vasundhara Jairath, Phd Scholar, Dept. of Sociology, DelhiUniversity

36. Seram Rojesh, Phd Scholar, Dept. of Sociology, DelhiUniversity

37. Isita Dey, Phd Scholar, Dept. of Sociology, DelhiUniversity

38. Jyotirmoy Talukdar, MA Student, Dept. of English, DelhiUniversity

39. Biswajit Bora, Dept. of English, University of Delhi

40. Melbic Maibam, Dept. of English, University of Delhi

41. Maisnam Arnapal, Dept. of English, University of Delhi

42. Abhishek Bhaskar, Dept. of English, University of Delhi

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2012 10:22 AM

    I completely agree …. also the term ‘illegal’ needs to be taken note of very seriuosly while describing the Muslims …. Its amazing that the wider print media has not discussed this at all ….

  2. arunsurajnagar permalink
    July 30, 2012 10:26 AM

    Endorsing the appeal I demand that this Xenophobic Vandalism should be stopped forthwith and all those be booked for the Crime under appropriate sections of the Law of the Land :Arun Kumar,Member,Press Council Of India

  3. July 30, 2012 11:22 AM

    Many People have been using words like Throw them out and justifying Voilence against the so called Illegal Immigrants This kind of Xenophobia is a Shame. We must not forget there are many countries where Indians are illegal immigrants

  4. July 30, 2012 11:24 AM

    Its a shame that poeple are justifying Xenophobia in Assam Voilence

  5. July 30, 2012 11:46 PM

    Accommodating illegal immigrants does not mean ethnic groups losing their own homeland to a mushrooming population especially when the state fails to address the concerns of the indigenous people or maybe does n’t want to. Yes, indeed its xenophobic for the illegal migrants also had the power to act, react and resist. Also, not to forget that the ethnic people have also suffered and are in refugee camps. What we should condemn in the larger political design, nexus and gains.

  6. d.nath permalink
    July 31, 2012 12:16 AM

    no one can deny the presence of illegal migrants from bangladesh in those districts. but, to label all the muslims of those districts as ‘bangladeshi’ is a gross mistake. the border should be sealed, by no other means this xenophobia will ever stop.

  7. abhijit handique permalink
    August 14, 2012 2:58 PM

    the recent so called ethnic violence in assam is really condemnable and not expected at a time when the whole state was struggling to come up to stability after the unwelcomed floods. The ethnic conflict with serious communal undertone that erupted in four districts (Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Chirang and Bongaigaon) of Lower Assam has been the most widespread and alarming conflict in the recent history of Assam. Nearly 200,000 people belonging to the Bodo and the Muslim communities, being forced to flee from their homes and villages due to the outrage. Currently they stand internally displaced, and are scarred and traumatized which is the worse part. but this conflict will not stop here untill and unless we resolve some of the problems that concerns boro people , non- boro people and the muslims.The Bodos (pronounced bo-ros) are an ethnic and linguistic community, early settlers of Assam in the northeast part of India. According to the 1991 census, there were 1.2 million Bodos in Assam which makes for 5.3% of the total population in the state. The non boros comprises of Koch-Rajbangshis, Rabhas, Adivasis, tea tribes, Assamese and Bengali Hindus and Muslims. The Muslim population in Assam consists of various streams. There are indigenous Assamese-speaking Muslims whose forefathers came as Mughal warriors, Muslims from East Bengal who settled in Assam before Partition, those who migrated from erstwhile East Pakistan , and immigrants from Bangladesh after its creation in 1971, who crossed over through the porous border. One of the factors that gave the agitation ground support was the large-scale influx from Bangladesh , particularly after 1971 . The Chief Minister of Assam Mr. Tarun gogoi said his government would come out with a white paper on measures taken to curb illegal migration across the Assam-Bangladesh border. He claimed that illegal migration from Bangladesh had come down, but admitted that the foreigners’ absconding, detected by tribunals, was still a problem. Mr. Gogoi said expulsion of detected foreigners was a problem faced not only by Assam but also by other States and the problem had to be resolved the Centre.
    People and the media is concluding this violence to be a communal one though the main reason lies in the influx of illegal bangladeshis, land rights of the indigenous people and vote bank politics.

  8. Mona permalink
    May 6, 2014 1:29 PM

    Couldn’t ‘t agree more with the points made above. The one thing that puzzles me is how can these people succumb to xenophobia. While all xenophobia should be condemned – the only occasions that I know of – it seems to stem from not just dislike but almost fear of those who are from elsewhere and most importantly different. What is the difference between one set of Bengalis and another?. How do these people identify them? Yes I know Bengalis speak in a variety of dialects but this is regardless of their religion and timing of entry.

    And by what criteria did Modi and co: decide that they will only let Hindus who have been persecuted in to India. All the people in Bangladesh are of Indian heritage. India is not just a country for Hindus but for all who can lay claim to its heritage or are naturalized. I know most countries have problems with economic refugees, but consider the fact that our artificial borders resulted from a particular set of circumstances. Suppose we landed up with a different set of states – for example suppose Kutch and most of Gujarat was in Pakistan, then all the Gujaratis who came to Bombay after a certain date would be thrown out. The migration between Indian states is for economic reasons too. Take the state of West Bengal – we have people from all across India staying there. What they have in common with them is that they like Bengalis “are the people of India who….” . However, they have a lot more common with the Bangladeshis.

    So back to my question – who decides that one set can come in but not another and on what criteria?

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