A CPIML Liberation team visited the site of the infamous evictions and killings at Dhalpur , Darrang district, Assam. The team comprised Politburo member Kavita Krishnan, CPIML MLA from Bihar Comrade Rambali Singh Yadav, Central Committee member and Karnataka secretary Clifton D’Rozario, Central Committee member and Assam State Committed member Balindra Saikia. They were accompanied by Bihar youth activist Ravi Ranjan, AIKS leader Jayanta Gogoi, Jipal Krishok Sromik Sangha leader Pranab Doley, Sangrami Krishok Sromik Sangha leaders Dinesh Das and Jehirul Islam.
A brief report of the visit to Darrang is below. In the next issue of Liberation, we will carry a report of the team’s visit to other flood-affected communities in Assam that are facing eviction, as well as a close reading of the Assam Land Policy and associated documents. Ed/-
The Killing Of Maynal Haque
- We met the family members of Maynal Haque, the man who was shot dead by Assam Police. We met his small daughter and son. The daughter was sobbing inconsolably, and had not had anything to eat or drink since the incident. The family and community are traumatised, especially children. The entire family is living under a makeshift piece of tin.
- We saw two homes near Maynal Haque’s own, which had not only been demolished but burnt down.
- Maynal was defending his home from arson and firing by the police & the “photographer” associated with the DM’s office. There are reports that he picked up a fallen beam to chase away a policeman and the photographer after one of them hit a 14-year-old What can possibly justify 17 Assam police personnel opening fire on a lone man armed with nothing but a stick? This is not crowd control, it is not an “encounter”, it is murder.
- Eviction Notices have been served to some through WhatsApp call the previous night, some got notices after eviction, and some have not yet received notices at all.
- What was the tearing hurry to evict by force, without even serving notices properly?
- We saw mosques destroyed, homes set on fire. What law allows police to commit arson and hate crimes?
Not “Encroachers” But Erosion Affected Farmers
The evicted households have settlement papers dating back to 7 February 1979, showing that they have been paying occupancy charges. The government has set up Anganawadi Kendras and schools etc. When the river floods their land they are displaced onto government land. How can such households be termed “encroachments”?
Land Policy Is Unjust, Benefits Corporates Not “Indigenous” People
The 2019 Land Policy and Brahma Committee report talk of evicting non-indigenous “encroachers” from government land which will be distributed to “indigenous”. The definition of “indigenous” is not provided in the policy - why are family of Bengali-descent Muslims considered non-indigenous when they have lived on the land for 4 or 5 decades? When in fact it is their children who attend the Assamese-medium Government schools while the more privileged sections of Assam try to send children to English-medium private schools?
Moreover erosion affected persons in Laika-Dodhya in Tinsukia (from the Mising tribal community) who fit the BJP’s definition of “indigenous” are yet to get the government land they are demanding.
The fine print of the Land Policy makes it clear that even the “indigenous” Assamese are not going to receive any land. The whole thing is a ploy to grab land to hand over to corporates as is already happening near the airport, at Mikir Bamuni etc.
“Bangladeshi” and “Pakistani”
All flood erosion-affected communities in Assam (our team visited affected such communities at Laika-Dodhiya villages in Tinsukia as well as Balijan, Borbil and Halodhibari villages near the Kaziranga sanctuary) are termed “encroachers on Government land” and face forced eviction by the state. But the BJP seeks to divide the victims by adding an additional layer of stigma and hate to affected Muslim communities, terming them “Bangladeshi” – i.e “encroachers” in India as a country.
The Assam Government has even been meeting some representatives of Muslims who are not of Bengali descent, to tell them that they are “indigenous (khilonjiya)” and therefore that the BJP is not opposed to Indian Assamese Muslims, only to those branded as “Bangladeshi”! A boatman who took us across the river to Darrang had the perfect comment on this tactic. A supposedly “indigenous” Muslim himself, he remarked with a wry grin, “This Government’s niyom (policy) is that it brands them (Bengali-descent Muslims) Bangladeshi, while it brands us khilonjiya Muslims, “Pakistani”! He accurately recognised that the BJP’s policy is “hate all Muslims” – it is nothing to do with defending Assam’s so-called “indigenous” people.
- The CM who is responsible for the communal eviction policy and whose brother is the SP Darrang who conducted the murderous attack must resign.
- Directions of the Supreme Court in its order dated 23.09.2014 in People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India [(2014) 10 SCC 635] (on police encounter killings) must be strictly complied with. There should be registration of FIR in regard to killing of Mohinul Haque and Sheikh Farid. An independent investigation into this must be conducted by the CID or police team of another police station under the supervision of a senior officer. The police officer(s) concerned must surrender their weapons for forensic and ballistic analysis, including any other material as required for investigation.
- The SP Darrang and police personnel involved in firing and arson must be sacked, arrested and charged under all appropriate criminal sections including murder, arson and attempt to murder.
- No more evictions of poor under any pretext. Instead evict the super-rich who have built resorts in forest core zones, tea companies who have occupied 6354 acres of land to illegally set up tea gardens, encroachments by industries in tribal belts, and the BJP office built on Govt land in in Guwahati.
- Stop the communal propaganda claiming that temples are being encroached by “illegal immigrants”. In fact at Darrang the temple has been kept safe in an area where almost 99% families are Muslim. The Hindu caretaker of the temple Parvati Das has also been evicted under the Land policy. If the Govt speaks of preserving sacred sites (“satras”) - why is the land grab near the airport destroying the “koita siddhi satra” near it?
- Local communities are providing relief to the displaced persons but the Government must take responsibility and provide relief including medical camps, drinking water, food, shelter, and hygiene.
- All evicted persons at Darrang must be restored to their lands and their homes must be rebuilt.