On the ongoing ethnic violence in Assam: A Statement

July 30, 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