About 8,000 Muslims in Assam Termed ‘Illegal Settlers’, Rendered Homeless

The eviction drive has caused countrywide protests, 2 persons killed and several injured in police firing, 2 mosques and a madrasa demolished

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The eviction drive has caused countrywide protests, 2 persons killed and several injured in police firing, 2 mosques and a madrasa demolished

Nearly 8,000 people, including children and elderly men and women, have been forced to live under the open sky in Assam’s Darrang district in a forced eviction move initiated by the local administration on September 20 despite the fact that an appeal of these villagers against eviction is pending in the High Court.

Hundreds of policemen armed with excavators like JCB and riot control vehicles reached the various spots in Darrang district of Assam on September 20, following which most residents vacated their houses fearing demolition. BJP’s Mangaldoi MP and two other MLAs – Mrinal Hazarika and Padma Hazarika – supervised the eviction drive.

“…. The situation on the ground is heart-wrenching. How can a democratically elected government be so inhuman and insensitive to the plight of such poor and landless people?” Ainuddin Ahmed, advisor of All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) was reported as saying. Two mosques and a madrasa were also demolished during the drive, Ahmed added. He further said the evicted persons are Indian citizens and are not “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh as is being claimed by the MLAs and leaders of the ruling BJP.

The eviction drive led to wide public protests across the country, including New Delhi, Aligarh, etc. beside at various places in Assam, demanding rehabilitation of evicted people. During the forced eviction drive at Gorukhuti village in Sipajhar Revenue Circle under Darrang district on September 23, the Assam police opened firing on the protestors, killing two persons Moinul Hoque (32 years old) and Sheikh Farid (12 years old) and injuring dozens of the protestors as well as some policemen.

In a viral video a person with a camera is seen stomping on the body of a person later identified as Moinul Hoque who was killed with a police bullet in the chest and lying motionless. NDTV reported that the person with a camera was a government cameraperson named Bijoy Bonia who was assigned to record the eviction. Some media reports, which identified the man, said he was a photographer with the Darrang district administration. The reports alleged that at the end of the video, policemen can be seen hugging the photographer.

The Assam police on September 23, announced that they have arrested the photographer. Assam Director General Of Police (DGP) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said in a tweet that the man, identified as a cameraperson named Bijoy Bonia, has been arrested and taken into custody by the Assam CID.

The incident has drawn widespread condemnation. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called the police action “state-sponsored fire”. “Assam is on state-sponsored fire. I stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the state – no children of India deserve this,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Congress Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi tweeted: “The Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s own brother is the Superintendent Police of the Darrang district where the barbaric violence took place. It is clear that this CM-SP duo did not want a peaceful resolution to the eviction drive. The CM continues to bring shame to Assam.”

All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MLA Ashraful Hussain tweeted: ‘“Terror Force’ of fascist, communal & bigoted Govt. shooting at its own citizens … The appeal of these villagers, against eviction, is pending in the High Court. Couldn’t the Govt wait till court order?”

Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) President Lurinjyoti Gogoi and General Secretary Jagadish Bhuyan said the eviction drive was carried out in an “inhuman manner” and that the government should have given prior notice, provided the families with alternative land or housing facilities and a comprehensive rehabilitation package.

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) Vice President Prof Salim Engineer has condemned the police firing and Dholpur Eviction in Assam and demanded immediate rehabilitation to the homeless as mandated by Supreme Court of India.

In a statement to the media on September 24, the JIH leader said: “We condemn the police firing and the eviction carried out in Assam’s Dholpur by the Sipajhar District administration. More than 900 families have been evicted mercilessly with utter disregard to all legal norms and international humanitarian obligations. The evicted urgently need food, shelter and legal assistance. The police firing on the homeless protestors resulted in the death of two and many seriously injured. The state government of Assam must take full responsibility for this and ensure that justice is delivered to the victims by punishing the concerned officials and police officers behind such a cruel attack. We hope that the report of the judicial enquiry is made public as soon as possible. We demand compensation of Rs.one Crore each to the families of the two deceased and Rs. 50 lakh each to the seriously injured.”

Prof Salim Engineer averred: “Ever since the BJP has come to power in Assam, it has started eviction of thousands of people in areas dominated by those from the minority community.  Around three months back, 300 families were evicted in Dhuburi district. Two years back, around 445 families were evicted from Chotea area of Biswanath district who are still homeless.

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind wishes to point out that the Human Rights – Fact Sheet 21 document issued by UN Habitat; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recognised the right to adequate housing contains freedoms. These freedoms include:

  1. Protection against forced evictions and the arbitrary destruction and demolition of one’s home;
  2. The right to be free from arbitrary interference with one’s home, privacy and family; and
  3. The right to choose one’s residence, to determine where to live and to freedom of movement.

India has ratified this international law guaranteeing housing as a basic human right. The Supreme Court of India, in several judgements, has also held that the human right to adequate housing is a fundamental right emanating from the right to life protected by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. However, the BJP government in Assam does not seem to care about this legal and moral obligation. It is accusing the poor and homeless as “encroachers” and “illegal-residents” that can be dispensed like criminals in a bid to demonstrate development and progress. These evictions go against the basic tenets of our Constitution and must be rolled back and instead steps should be taken to rehabilitate them suitably at the earliest.”

Welfare Party of India (WPI) also strongly condemned the gruesome eviction drive undertaken in the Assam’s Darrang district and held Chief Minister of Assam Hemanta Biswa Sarma accountable and demanded his immediate resignation.

WPI National President Dr SQR Ilyas strongly criticised the barbaric and inhuman act adopted during the forceful eviction drive of the minorities in the Darrang district of Assam is an oppressive move by the BJP government.

He said the incident is highly deplorable and is a state sponsored terror and called it an attempt at ethnic cleansing of Bengali Muslims in a free democratic country.

He said that the Assam’s state government’s call for judicial probe into the circumstances leading to the death of two persons and injuries to several others, including policemen, in the clashes between police and protestors during an eviction drive in Darrang district is an attempt to misguide and demanded that a suo-moto case be registered against the Assam government’s highhandedness.

He said the eviction drive in the Dhalpur Village under Sipajhar revenue circle where thousands of settlers were evicted from 77000 bighas of government land, were not illegal immigrants but were displaced citizens and victims of the annual floods who were not rehabilitated by the government in the first place and were further subjected to this inhuman eviction and called it a gross violation of human rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Dr Ilyas implored the citizens of the nation to stand up against this oppression and demanded compensation to the next to kin of those killed and injured and demanded strict action against the erring policemen and severe punishment to Bijoy Shankar Bonia, professional photographer hired by the Darrang district administration to document the eviction, who was seen on camera assaulting the victim of police firing.

He further demanded all those evicted should be immediately rehabilitated.