Safeguarding Interest of Assam's Indigenous People

Two recent incidents shocked the indigenous people where the accused turned out to be the suspected Bangladeshi Muslims who physically targeted the locals in Dudhnoi and Mangaldoi localities.
Safeguarding Interest of Assam's Indigenous People
Safeguarding Interest of Assam's Indigenous People
Nava Thakuria

Assam has remained in the national and international media for decades with a pertinent issue of illegal migration that is taking away its resources from the original inhabitants, but it has lately degraded to the next level, where the locals need to be alert to safeguard their primary interest of security from the suspected Bangladeshi origins. Two recent incidents shocked the indigenous people where the accused turned out to be the suspected Bangladeshi Muslims who physically targeted the locals in Dudhnoi and Mangaldoi localities. The police have already arrested some of the accused individuals and more breakthroughs are expected in the coming days. But the question continues to linger, for how long the original dwellers will be safe in their land!

Recently, pro-active organisations like Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) and Prabajan Virodhi Manch (PVM) issued separate statements expressing serious concern over the developments and demanded stringent actions against those criminals involved in horrible Dudhnoi and Mangaldoi incidents. Expressing shock and dismay over the Dudhnoi episode, where two teenage girls (belonging to Bodo community) were allegedly gang-raped and a youth was killed by a group of suspected Bangladeshis, the PPFA urged Assam government to take a serious note of it. Quoting local sources, the forum of nationalist citizens claimed that both the tribal girls were abused by three suspected Islamists on their return from a cultural function in the evening hours on May 3.

Next day, the concerned families lodged a complaint at Dudhnoi police station under Goalpara district. Meanwhile, on the night of 5 May, a team of village defence party (VDP) went to confront Dhan Ali Talukdar, a suspect in the rape incident, where a group of goons attacked the VDP members with sharp weapons. One member Hiranmay Khakhlari sustained serious injuries and he was rushed to a nearby hospital. Hiranmay, also from the Bodo community, was later shifted to a private hospital in Guwahati, but he succumbed to injuries on 17 May. Soon after his death, the police picked up Shekabar Ali and Parbina Begum in connection with the murder. Moreover, Dhan Ali Talukdar along with Bahar Ali and Rahman Ali were arrested in connection with the rape incident.

Very recently, Dudhnoi witnessed a massive public demonstration demanding justice for the murder and gang-rape of minor victims and also adequate compensations to the affected families. The protest rally, held on 27 May, was attended by thousands of local people including a large number of tribal women, and culminated in sending a memorandum to Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, State police chief GP Singh and other senior bureaucrats pursuing their demand for a fast-track court to ensure swift justice. The protest demonstration was supported by a number of influential organisations like All Bodo Students’ Union, All Rabha Students’ Union, All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union, Hajong Students’ Union, Garo Students' Union, Nikhil Rabha Mahila Parishad, United Bodo People's Organization, Bodo Mahila Kalyan Parishad, etc.

Meanwhile, the anti-influx body PVM highlighted the incident of Mangaldoi in Darrang district, where two local residents were physically assaulted by a group of Bangladeshi origin vendors on 24 April. According to the PVM statement, Jiten Deka went to sell his vegetable produce in the daily market controlled by the Mangaldoi municipal board, where he was obstructed and later beaten up severely by those vendors. Deka’s son Sasanka came to his assistance and he was also beaten up badly by them following which Sasanka had to be admitted in Mangaldoi civil hospital. Deka’s wife lodged a complaint at Mangaldoi police station on the same day, but no action was taken. Later when a group of villagers organised a protest demonstration, the complaint was registered on 4 May and one person was arrested.

PVM convenor Upamanyu Hazarika led a representatives to the municipal board and pushed for cancelling the licenses of those offending vendors. A PVM delegation also approached Darrang police superintendent to demand for legal actions against those offenders. Hazarika, a Supreme Court advocate, expressed anger over the developments and commented that until and unless the NRC Assam draft’s re-verification is carried out, 80 Lakhs Bangladeshis detected as the foreigners, safeguarded the rights of indigenous people on land, job, trades, etc Assam will soon head towards becoming a Bangladeshi majority State. Speaking about the final NRC draft, Hazarika claimed that it had only helped many Bangladeshi families to enrol their names in the list. He termed the NRC, which excluded only 19 lakh migrants from the list of genuine Indian citizens, as a failure to the six-year long Assam agitation and an insult to the sacrifice made by 855 martyrs.

Various civil society groups have already urged the State government to take pragmatic initiatives to verify the draft NRC with the national base year and punish those guilty in fraudulence and money laundering during the NRC updating process. Allegations were floated that the draft included millions of illegal citizens (read Bangladeshis) with the help of software tampering. Shamefully, many local temporary workers in the NRC updation are yet to get their full payments (cumulative amount will be Rs 100 crore) till now. Conscious citizens argued that for the greed of some vested interested elements (including a few senior television journalists, who propagated the draft as a final and sacred one), those part time workers as data entry operators must not be deprived of their legal dues.

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