Assam – NAPM and PUDR Statements demanding release of Akhil Gogoi; Delhi protest on June 29

June 27, 2011

Statement from Delhi Action Committee Against Guwahati Police Killings on 22nd June

The protest in Delhi will be held on Wednesday, 29th June. 12:00pm -2:30pm
Location: Assam Bhawan, Sadar Patel Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
Organized by : Delhi Action Committee Against Guwahati Police Killings, New Socialist Initiative, National Alliance for People’s Movement, Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur), People’s Union for Democratic Rights, INSAF, Delhi Solidarity Group, All India Students Association, Stree Adhikar Sangathan, NFFPFW, New Trade Union Initiative, Pragatisheel Yuva Sangathan

On 22nd June 2011, at around noon, the Assam police opened fire, killing four, on a demonstration led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) – a peasant organization of Assam (click here for a background article on KMSS – Ed.). The protesters were demanding a halt to a massive ongoing eviction drive for more than a week around the hills in the city of Guwahati.

To protest against the barbaric act of Assam Police and Government, a committee (Delhi Action Committee Against Guwahati Police Killings on 22nd June, 2011) has been formed.

The statement issued by committee on 26th June is given below. An online petition has also been created by the committee and can be accessed through this link http://www.petitiononline.com/a22k2011/petition.html . We would not only request you to sign the petition but also to widely circulate it.

Apart from the petition, the committee along with other progressive individuals and organizations also plan to hold a protest demonstration on 29th June in New Delhi, details of which will be decided upon and circulated by tomorrow. The committee also plans to file a complaint with National Human Rights Commission and National Women’s Commission.

We appeal to all democratic minded individuals and groups to condemn such high- handedness of the Assam Government and seek your active support in this matter.

Mayur Chetia, Bonojit Hussain
On behalf of Delhi Action Committee Against Guwahati Police Killings on 22nd June, 2011

Statement released on 26th June

On 22nd June 2011, at around noon, the Assam police opened fire, killing four, on a demonstration led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) – a peasant organization of Assam. The protesters were demanding a halt to a massive ongoing eviction drive for more than a week around the hills in the city of Guwahati. Different tribal communities and labouring poor of the city have been living on these hills for over many decades and many of them are clearly entitled to pieces of land based on the ‘Forest Regulation (Rights) Act’ and other provisions of law. KMSS has been demanding a thorough survey to be undertaken by concerned Government agencies, of not just hills but of the entire city and ‘notify’ all lands according to law, and also hold mass consultations and public hearings before any evictions is undertaken by the State agencies.

However, the Government of Assam has ignored all legal rules and procedures. And over the last few days the city has witnessed an unprecedented ‘emergency’ like situation with thousands of people being rendered homeless due to the frenzied eviction drive.

It is worth mentioning here that in recent times the hills of the city are also becoming sites for huge land-grabbing by construction lobby and their Mafia associates. There are enough indications to suggest that the recent eviction drive was perhaps meant to clear the land of the poor so that it can be handed over to these Mafiosi. It is very clear that talks about ‘illegal encroachment of land by the labouring poor in the hills and its effect on ecology’ is nothing but a sham.

Rather than addressing the demands of adhering to proper regulations, procedures and the rights of the people; on 22nd June when more than 10,000 people gathered near the State Secretariat to press for their demands, Deputy Commissioner refused to meet the protestors. Soon the police started lobbing Tear-Gas shells and resorted to a baton charge. In the milieu, many people got injured and started running for cover. Police then resorted to firing which killed four people, including one minor. More than 50 people were seriously injured.

This unprovoked aggression, agitated a section of the protesters who retaliated by pelting stones, and grabbing what-so-ever they could lay their hands on, including twigs and branches of tree. And in the ensuing scuffle some policemen were also injured and hospitalized; a few Government vehicles were also set on fire.

However, a section of the mainstream media in Assam has been trying to harp on the singular fact that few policemen were injured and few government vehicles were burnt down, to present a distorted picture that the State Police forces are holier than thou and that the protesters are to be blamed for the causalities, as if the protesters pre-planned the pitched battles that were fought between the Government Forces and the protesters.

Instead of demanding accountability from the administration for consciously creating such a tense and murderous situation; certain influential and affluent section in Assam and their ‘brethrens’ in rest of India blame the protesters for all blood that tainted the streets on the ‘faithful’ afternoon.

What did the Government do? It went on a witch-hunt. Shamelessly, the Chief Minister-cum-Home Minister of Assam, Mr. Tarun Gogoi, went on to give a ‘George Bush kind of dictum’ on news channels; he said in a – “Whoever stands with Akhil Gogoi and KMSS have invited their own death ”.

On 24th June the Assam police arrested Akhil Gogoi, the general secretary of KMSS for inciting riot, arsoning, culpable homicide etc. We are apprehensive that in the coming days more and more people are going to be arrested, and if one go by the “good records” of Assam Police, all of them will certainly be tortured under Police Custody.

We appeal to all democratic minded individuals and groups to condemn such high- handedness of the Assam Government.

We intend to:

1.Organize a protest in the national Capital on 29th June, 2011, against such authoritarian attitude of the Assam (as well the Central) Government which is clearly moving towards becoming a ‘Police State’.

2.To run an online campaign both locally and globally to give a message to the Government of Assam that national and international civil society is watching it.

3.Submit a petition to National Human Rights Commission appealing that a show-cause notice be issued to the Government of Assam asking for the rational behind live bullet firing upon protesters which resulted in the death of four protesters.

4.Submit a petition to national Women’s Commission appealing that a show cause notice be issued to Assam Police. While Assam Police knew that at least an one third of the protesters were women, why were there no women police personnel on the ground.

We Demand:

1.Land grabbing by the State should be stopped immediately, and poor and tribal inhabitants of Guwahati be given legal title to the land for homestead.

2.A judicial enquiry into the police firing which resulted in the death of four protesters..

3. Immediate action against the concerned police officials who approved the decision to fire upon the protesters.

4.Ensure the safety of the KMSS leadership which has been sent to the police custody by the court of chief judicial magistrate, metropolitan ghy on 24th june 2011.

5.An unconditional apology by the chief minister/home minister of Assam Mr. Tarun Gogoi, to people of India.

Sd/-
Bonojit Hussain, Mayur Chetia, Abikal Borah, Naveen Chander, Madhuresh Kumar, Anshul Kumar Pandey, Yengkhom Jilangamba Singh, Amrapali Basumatary, Vasundhara Jairath, Seram Rojesh, Anjali Sinha, Purnima Gupta, Malem Ningthouja, Praveen Verma

Contact: 9582730577, 9999773268, 9211215849

******************************

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS Press Release on 24.06.2011

Release Akhil Gogoi immediately!

Stop the unjust evictions of people from around Guwahati city!

PUDR strongly condemns the undemocratic and arbitrary arrest of Akhil Gogoi, RTI activist and leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS). His arrest comes in the wake of police brutality and firing on people protesting their eviction from the hills and wetlands surrounding the city.

Akhil Gogoi’s crime is that on 22 June, he led over 10,000 protestors towards the Central Secretariat in Guwahati against the Tarun Gogoi government’s eviction drive. Over 95,000 households have been termed `encroachments’ and the drive’s victims have been tribals and working class people. The protest turned violent and the police firing and rioting left three people dead and over sixty injured.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi promptly condemned the ill-fated protest. This in spite of the fact that his earlier claims of giving pattas to long term residents and rehabilitating BPL families have not materialized. Appallingly, he has now sanctioned an exclusive `Forest Protection Battalion’ of over a 1000 new recruits to guard against `encroachments’.

Not surprisingly, in this context of extreme state repression, Akhil Gogoi was brazenly arrested by a large posse of policemen even as he was addressing a press conference. While it remains unclear what specific cases he has been arrested under, in total, ten cases, including four non-bailable ones, have been slapped on him. Many of these are likely to be various sections of the National Security Act which will hold him `responsible’ for the rioting that occurred on 22 June. It must be noted that Akhil Gogoi has already stated that the riots were started by government agents and that the KMSS protest had been a peaceful one.

PUDR demands that the Assam government immediately withdraw the spurious cases lodged against Akhil Gogoi and release him immediately. Additionally, we demand that the government recognize the rights and livelihoods of the thousands of people who live in the hills and wetlands around Guwahati city and stop its eviction drive.
Harish Dhawan and Paramjeet Singh

Secretaries

******************************

NAPM demands Release of Akhil Gogoi: End vindictive arrests in Assam

New Delhi / Guwahati, June 24th : As was expected, Akhil Gogoi, Genereal Secretary along with Mukut, Office Secretary, KMSS have been arrested by the Assam police from the Guwahati Press Club on the charges of arson, rioting and burning of government vehicles. It is ironical that there has been no action taken on Debasish Borah DSP, Dispur and other police officials responsible for day light murder of a nine year old child, Shiv Chauhan (40), and Viren Kolita (62) a rickshaw puller. Is this the rule of law? It is nothing but vindictiveness on part of the Congress Government in Assam against whom KMSS has been actively campaigning and exposing their corruption.

Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has a history of non-violent agitations and exposing the corruption of the district officials and some of the key Ministers of Mr. Tarun Gogoi’s Cabinet.KMSS has been a victim of state terror in past as well and many of their cadres has been arrested on various charges for opposing anti-people development, mega dams in the North East and unearthing massive corruption in the PDS in Golaghat district. If in all these years KMSS has never indulged in violence or damaging government property then how can they do this ?

It is completely ironical that Akhil was addressing a press conference on the same issue and explaining that how some unruly elements in the crowd and members of Youth Congress were responsible for the burning of the vehicles. Given the complicity of the state and KMSS occupying the key oppositional democratic space in the State, it is very likely that violence was instigated to bring bad name to the movement.

We fear that Akhil Gogoi might be booked under the National Security Act which is completely undemocratic and against all the constitutional norms. NAPM strongly condemns any such devious endeavour on the Assam government part.We demand that the government immediately withdraws false charges and release Akhil and take action against the erring police officials responsible for the cold blooded murder of three people.

Any attempt at muzzling the democratic dissent and voices of the people will not be tolerated by the people’s movements. The onus for safety of Akhil Gogoi and Mukut lies completely on the Chief Minister Shri Tarun Gogoi, who is constitutionally bound to defend the democratic rights of the social movements and activists.

Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Roma, Prafulla Samantara, Suniti S R, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Madhuresh Kumar

************************************

NAPM condemns killing of 3 people in Guwahati and demands action against officials
NAPM demands the settlement of claims of tribals under Forest Rights Act

June 22, 2011

New Delhi / Guwahati : Today at 12:30 pm Assam State police opened fire, killing three, on a demonstration led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti – a NAPM constituent, demanding halt to the ongoing eviction drive for more than a week around the city of Guwahati. We strongly condemn this ghastly act of the Assam Government. Assamese Tribals and other working class people living on the hills surrounding the city were being evicted by the government in the pretext of removing encroachments. While some might have encroached the land but there are claims under Forest Rights Act to be settled. Some of these residents have submitted their claims under the FRA. However, the government has done nothing to address those and instead started evictions which had made the situation tense in the city.

The opposition to the eviction drive in localities like Chachal, Shilshaku, Gaurchak has been supported by many organisations of the city including Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti. Save Guwahati and Build Guwahati President, Dhiren Baruah said “There should be a scientific solution rather than random eviction. People are living in these areas for a long time. A detailed census should be done in these areas and the government should give pattas to those residing for a long time. But they should also be instructed to build their houses in a scientific way so that it doesn’t affect the eco-system”. KMSS-NAPM supporting the claims of the residents demand that their rights be settled under the FRA and not only titles to the land but also community rights for use of other resources be also given to them.

Rather than addressing the claims, today when more than 10,000 people gathered near the Secretariat demanding their claims, Deputy Commissioner refused to meet the protestors. Soon the police lobbed tear gas and started canning the protestors. In the milieu many people got injured and started running for cover. Police later resorted to firing which killed three people, including one minor. Many of the men and women have suffered injuries, including one woman who is being treated for critical injury.

Even as we write, Akhil Gogoi, KMSS General Secretary and other activists are having a meeting with the Commissioner after the incident. True to his anti democratic stance, Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi has refused a meeting with the protestors. The administration has promised that a meeting will be convened on 28th June with the Principal Secretaries of the department of Forests, Revenue, Tribal Welfare and KMSS to discuss various issues to be followed by a meeting with Chief Secretary.

KMSS has however, made it clear that the rights of the tribals under the FRA has to be settled and a peaceful and credible settlement to the people living in the hills for more than two or three generations has to be found.

NAPM strongly condemns this highhandedness of the Assam Government and demands action against the officials responsible for the ghastly incident.

After the recent elections we had said, “…that the victory of the same government means difficult times ahead for people’s movements but we will continue to challenge the ineptness and corruption in the governance and fight for communities control of natural resources and their means of livelihood …” We reiterate our resolve to struggle for justice and dignity to the millions of the people of Assam and this country.

This incident once again exposes the anti people face of the Congress government and the lack of an effective rule in the state. A state turning against its people for demanding their due rights is extremely shameful and indicates demise of complete democratic. We strongly condemn such an act and demand an independent enquiry in to the whole incident. We also urge that Union government must intervene in this and ensure timely implementation of the Forest Rights Act to save further conflict in the country.


Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Roma, Prafulla Samantara, Suniti S R, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Madhuresh Kumar