Posts Tagged ‘Barak valley’

Assam: Abuse, threats, intimidation and false case against human rights defender, scholar and writer Prof. Tapodhir Bhattacharya

July 9, 2018

Assam human rights defender and renowned literary theorist and litterateur of South Asia Mr. Tapodhir Bhattacharya has been abused, threatened and booked for an article written by him exposing the discriminatory and arbitrary procedure of updating of National Register of Citizens (NRC).

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Prof. Tapodhir Bhattacharya

Please sign the petition HERE

Following the publication of an article in by Professor Tapodhir Bhattacharya, on Tuesday 3rd July, 2018 in the “Aajkaal“, a leading Bengali daily news-paper published from Kolkata, West Bengal, titled “Assam e Bangalir Shoroshojja” meaning “Bengalis on a bed of thorns in Assam” pointing out the racist and anti-people aspects of ongoing updation process of National Register of Citizens in Assam, at first, a section of electronic as well as print media based in Guwahati including the Pratadin Times, News 18 Assam etc. and “Edinor Sangbad”, “Axomiya Pratidin” among the print media branded him as a conspirator against the Assamese community. Then on 8 July a complaint was filed for registering a false criminal case against him in Dispur Police Station purportedly under sections 153A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharya is a renowned and award winning literary theorist and critic and exponent of the contemporary theory and comparative aesthetics. Along with it, he is an essayist, poet, story-writer and the editor of a widely circulated little magazine “Dwiralaap”. He is a dedicated Human Rights Defender and at present works as the President of the Citizens Rights Protection Co-ordination Committee(CRPCC). This organization has been working against arbitrary deprivation of citizenship rights of the citizens and against continuous enforced statelessness of people of Assam for a long time. He is also an honorary member of Barak Upottoka Bongo Shahitto O Sanskriti Sammelan (Barak Valley Bengali Literary and Cultural Association), a prestigious body of litterateurs and intellectuals of South Assam. He is also the former Vice-Chancellor of the Assam University, Silchar and Tagore Professor of Delhi University. His father late Mr. Tarapada Bhattacharya was a freedom fighter and a member of the Assam Legislative Assembly from Katigorah Constituency, Cachar. Both of his parents were teachers. His wife Mrs. Swapna Bhattacharya is also a renowned and award-winning story-writer. Defaming and intimidating a person of such a stature and popularity is designed to stop him from his constant work mainly through writing and raising awareness for protection of basic human rights of linguistic and ethnic minorities of Assam as well as other human rights defenders working on the issue of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship rights of people in Assam.

After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed governments both at centre in 2014 and in Assam state in 2016, one hundred more Foreigners Tribunals were set up and a large number of people including the indigenous people of Assam were served notices by these Tribunals and in many cases notices are not properly served and decisions are taken ex -parte declaring the person referred to in the case as a foreign national under a procedure that puts burden of proof on the suspect. After such decision, people are kept in detention centres indefinitely. Moreover, since the updation of National Register Citizens for Assam is going on in the state under a questionable procedure, a sense of helplessness and desperation have develpoed among the vulnerable groups of people to such an extent that at least ten people, including a man from indigenous Boro community and rest from people of Bengali origin, have committed suicide. More recently through a letter dated 11 June 2018 addressed to the Minister of External Affairs, Government of India, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on minority issues, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary from of racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief have expressed their concerns and asked for a report from the Government of India on the issue of discrimination faced by people of Bengali origin. In such a scenario the term “bed of thorns”, which is a metaphor taken from the Indian epic Mahabharata, appears to have been used in the post-editorial essay to denote this extremely stressful and uncertain situation prevailing in Assam as an outcome of discriminatory, arbitrary and irrational procedure adopted by the NRC authorities.

The complaint filed in Dispur Police Station is has invoked sections 153A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 153A provides punishment for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony and is non-bailable. Section 120B provides punishment for criminal conspiracy. The opinion piece penned by Mr. Bhattacharya does not by any stretch of imagination falls under any penal provisions of law, let alone section 153A, IPC. He critiqued the state policies and actions that are resulting in arbitrary deprivation of citizenship of a large number of citizens of India including people of indigenous communities through a procedure already questioned by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs. There is not a single word in his entire essay that is calculated to promote enmity between communities. Rather the write-up seeks to promote harmony between communities through promotion and protection of equal rights of all people living in Assam. The speech in the article is well within the protection of Article 19 of the Constitution of India as well as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. And it does not fall under any of the eight items enumerated under Article 19(2).

His works as the president of CRPCC and member of other civil society organizations as well as in his individual capacity fall within the meaning of human rights works as contemplated under the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and as such he is also protected under the declaration as a human rights defender.

In this background it appears that the defamation, threats and the false complaint against Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharya is an effort to create an environment of fear among the human rights defenders and progressive community workers. It is to be mentioned that earlier also in the 1970s and 80s, hundreds of community workers were killed in Assam after branding them as “Badan” meaning “conspirator and traitors”.

Therefore, Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharaya is at risk of getting physically assaulted and even killed by the extremists. He is also likely to be harassed by the police in connection with the complaint against him. There are also concerns about safety and physical and mental well being of his family and friends and other human rights defenders working in Assam, particularly on the issue of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship.

Please sign the petition HERE

 (For more information,  Taniya Laskar may be contacted at bhrpc.ne@gmail.com.)

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The sufferings and satisfaction of the forgotten people of the neglected part of Assam called Barak valley

January 23, 2016

Prasenjit Biswas

SilcharSocial psychologists argue that they have two basic functions — to alter the perception of being “happy” as “satisfied” and to turn the notion of “bad” into “good”. These changes, needless to say, drive individuals and collectives towards believing that the wish is fulfilled. In the case of Assam’s Barak Valley, such is the level of satisfaction at the running, at long last, of the slow-moving passenger train over the hill tracts of the Borail range, from Silchar to Lumding and then to Guwahati. After a wait of nearly two decades, the metre gauge conversion work was completed and the first goods train flagged off on 21 November. Regular passenger services started two weeks ago. Already there is a clamour for more daily services.

Located disadvantageously, the Barak Valley until 1948 was part of erstwhile Sylhet district of Assam. It faced immense difficulty in keeping itself connected. Deliberately neglected, isolated and shabbily represented by an incompetent selfseeking political class, the valley kept treading a lonely path of building up a few institutions.

The broad gauge connection now can improve not just the supply but the demand side of the economy as well. So far this has been inelastic and rigid in the absence of supply chains. Both in terms of transport of goods and services and reduced internal and external transaction, business is bound to look up now. In other words, the broad gauge, as an infrastructural investment by the government, is a right step in the direction of improving both supply and demand sides of Barak Valley’s existing Robinson Crusoe economy.

When economy suffered, a set of traders, allegedly in nexus with officials, funders, suppliers and contractors, kept changing goalposts and causing inconvenience to the aam jantawith regard to simple travel between Silchar and Guwahati. Landlocked Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur were made to suffer because Barak Valley is their only outlet to the outside world. They had to pay higher prices for food and other essential items.

The cost of fuel, education, healthcare and any dream of building a home and marrying off daughters and sisters or going on a pilgrimage or a tour, all very basic to human dignity, eluded the ordinary valley-dwellers. To add insult to injury, came the rhetoric of being called a “pariah in Axom” or a “Bong from Barak”. The residents resisted unto the last this onslaught on culture and language of Barak Valley.

Those returning home from colleges and universities, some often bruised for life and even eliminated for being toppers, suffer middle- class pangs. For manual labourers, returning home without being paid, disappearing without the government being in the least concerned, harassed for being Muslim or Bengali at checkpoints on the borders of Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram, added more strings to this saga of pain and torture. Ironically, Mizoram opposes broad gauge as it feels it is a vehicle of access for those hapless Vais, as outsiders are known in the state.

Family of a tea labourer in the Bhuvan valley tea garden live here. This is their home.

Family of a tea labourer in the Bhuvan valley tea garden live here. This is their home.

Amidst all this, quiet flows the Barak. The bus lobby made money, charging and extorting from students, labourers and other travellers. Sending goods became officially and unofficially duty-bearing, as one was forced to pay sales tax, service tax, transport tax, gate tax, goonda tax and all other forms of extortion. Any import to Barak Valley likewise attracted extra payments. At the end of the spectrum, the poor buyer and low-income lot were pushed to slow starvation, while those who enjoyed the spoils led a five- star life. Their property, their buildings crossed permissible limits and banks started obliging them.

On the flip side, since the 1980s, coins and small change were scarce among rickshawpullers, daily wage earners and others and they are virtually left without means. With the coming of the broad gauge all this is bound to change. The traders of Crusoe’s economy have started taking joyrides in the new trains, apparently to ascertain how the new line would affect their business and income. On the inaugural run of the train these traders were said to have mixed with passengers to enjoy the ride. The joy lies in reduced transaction cost for them. This year even during the worst floods the price of onions did not rise beyond Rs 20. They need to rework their strategy of profiteering.

Certainly cement, iron rods, bricks and other building materials, clothes and many such monopoly items could still be an abundant source of black and white profit.

How can a passenger train and a few goods trains ensure great revolutionary transformation? Here comes the rope-trick of turning “bad” into “good”. Railway tunnel numbers seven to 12, falling on the diverted track between Harangajao and Maibong, deviate at 35 degrees from the erstwhile alignment on tectonically-shifting ground and the rainy season serves to relay the conditions of existence of ordinary people in the predictable event of landslides. Nevertheless, the broad-gauge is here and so far so good. Public sentiment prevents people from even speaking of such a possibility

The same company that could not make part of Mahasadak (East-West corridor) between Haflong and Jinam Valley, had been seemingly the main contractor to build tunnel numbers 10, 11 and 12. These tunnels are areas of concern. Here comes the geological reality of Barak Valley being surrounded by hills on three sides. These hills are no doubt more vulnerable, homes to extortionists, and yet they maintain a similar condition of life, the only difference being the Sixth Schedule and the Inner Line Permit that separates the people of Barak Valley from any comparable economic and social support. The valley, therefore, is pushed to the bottom when it comes to business, thanks to both inside masterminds and outside adversaries.

One of the major sources of sustenance of the valley is its 100-odd tea gardens. Starvation deaths, low wages, inadequate rations, no significant healthcare and education, poor maternal health, lack of water and sanitation and a producers’ market of depressed buyers have a multiplier effect in incidences of voodoo, witchhunts and day-night gambling. A brothel at the heart of Silchar since World War II remains a gulag of the trafficked. Recent beef politics, sporadic polarisation games, grabbing agricultural land and a massive culture of speed money, starting from death certificates to electricity connections, logging, violation of the Conservation Act in letter and spirit — all this table talk could be listened to in idle office gossip off a winter evening. Sewage remains chocked , there is no solid waste processing and blocked drains and natural water courses show that the rich are actually very poor.

Being a valley amidst hills, it is like a long forsaken brother whose sisters have forgotten it. The condition of the Shillong-Silchar National Highway (No 6), the entry point to the valley, is in a state of Harappan ruin. One is reminded of how a powerful Central minister inaugurated a tunnel to prevent landslides at Sonapur, while another state minister ensured that the National Highway is no longer maintained by the Border Road Task Force. This single act of removing the BRTF turned the eminent domain into a hunting field of poor roadwork to be dilapidated in no time for the next bonanza. The feast is on at NH 6 and the ordinary people’s route to entry and exit is in the doldrums with of course the hope of broad gauge not betraying the happiness shown by the people. The feast is on through multiple checkgates at Digarkhal and other places with impunity.

An iconic Left member of Parliament, Nurul Huda, who represented Silchar, quietly sold off his home when he could no longer bear with this leaking pipe phenomenon and now that he is no more, people of the valley are left with very little by way of a visionary roadmap. Indeed, the valley has no voice anywhere. This is the social pain that drives the ironically happy people of the valley.

The piece has been first published in the Statesman under the heading of The tragedy of a valley amidst hills.

Dr Prasenjit Biswas is professor of philosophy at North Eastern Hill University, Shillong and Vice Chairman of Barak Human Rights Protection Committee.

Human rights defenders severely beaten up by a government officer in Karimganj, NHRC moved

December 18, 2015

Press statement

18 December, 2015

Guwahati: Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has today filed a complaint and appeal for urgent actions to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding a case of assault and intimidation of two human rights defenders in Karimganj district of Assam by a government official and his accomplices.

According to information received by BHRPC, anti-corruption and labour rights activist Mr Shyamraj Rajbhor and his wife Ms Aradhana Rajbhor, who is also an activist in her own right, were badly beaten up causing serious injuries on 2 December, 2015 allegedly by Mr P K Roy, Block Development Officer (BDO), Ramkrishna Nagar Block (in Karimganj district of Assam) and his accomplices. It is obvious that the attack was carried out to intimidate them and members of their organisation Mojuri Sramik Union (MSU) into silence on the matter of alleged corruption relating to allotment of a house under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), a central government flagship programme to provide housing for the rural poor in India. The activists obtained relevant documents under the Right to Information Act, 2005 that showed that funds under the scheme were allotted to a person not eligible for IAY benefits depriving the actual beneficiaries. Their complaints in the matter were ignored by the BDO for a long time. But when they pursued further the BDO tricked them into coming to a house of one Mr Ravi Malakar where he and his other accomplices severely beat them up causing serious injuries. They had to be given treatment as in-patients for seven days in the Santosh Kumar Roy Civil Hospital. They are still recuperating.

Despite filing complaints to the police and district authorities no actions against the alleged perpetrators have been taken. Mr and Ms Rajbhor and members of the MSU are apprehending more such attacks in view of the lack of any deterrent actions and preventive measures.

In its complaint BHRPC urged the NHRC to ensure registration of a case against the attackers, their arrest, prompt and objective investigation, payment of compensation to the victims and arrangement of proper security for members of MSU and other human rights defenders working in the area.

Reports of the case have also been sent to the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for appropriate actions and other national and international organisations that look after the security of human rights defenders including the Human Rights Defenders Alert– India, Asian Human Rights Commission, International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Amnesty International.

For further information you may contact

Mr Nirmal Kumar Das

Mobile: +919435238753

Or BHRPC at bhrpc.ne@gmail.com

Assam: Human rights defenders intimidated and beaten up in Karimganj district allegedly by a government official and his hired goons

December 18, 2015

Anti-corruption and labour rights activist Mr Shyamraj Rajbhor and his wife Ms Aradhana Rajbhor, who is an activist in her own right, were badly beaten up causing serious injuries on 2 December, 2015 allegedly by Mr P K Roy, Block Development Officer (BDO), Ramkrishna Nagar Block (in Karimganj district of Assam) and his accomplices presumably to intimidate them and members of their organisation Mojuri Sramik Union (MSU) into silence on the matter of alleged corruption relating to allotment of a house under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), a central government flagship programme to provide housing for the rural poor in India. Despite filing complaint to the police and district authorities no actions against the alleged perpetrators have been taken. Mr and Ms Rajbhor and members of the MSU are apprehending more such attacks in view of lack of any deterrent actions and preventive measures.

Background: The MSU is a trade union registered under the Trade Union Act, 1926 vide registration number 2648 dated 29/10/2015. The main office of the union is located at Ratanpur Road, Hailakandi district in Assam. The primary objectives of the union include: 1. Ensuring security and welfare of the labourers of unorganised sectors and the tea garden labourers; 4. Proper implementation of the government schemes and programmes meant for the welfare of the poor people such as (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), IAY etc.; 4. Proper implementation of Public Distribution System etc. They mainly work through peaceful street activism like rally, demonstrations etc.; and also use Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005 to expose and fight corruption whenever necessary and other legal mechanisms including litigation in courts of law, if necessary.

34 year old Mr Shyamraj Rajbhor is the Secretary of Block Committee of the MSU for Ramkrishna Nagar Development Block and Ms Aradhana Rajbhor (32) is his wife and a member of the union. Both of them are residents of village Rajnagar (Post Office: Purva Harinagar) under Ramkrishna Nagar Police Station in Karimganj district, Assam. At the time of attack they were involved in works on alleged corruption relating to allotment of fund for IAY house. At the local level the authority of such allotment rests with the BDO.

According to leaders of the union, documents obtained through application under the RTI Act suggested that there were mis-allocation and misappropriation of fund under IAY scheme. The union members said that it was found that fund for a house had been allotted to a person who did not come under the category specified for the scheme because their name was not there in the lists of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families for whom the scheme is meant. The MSU, therefore, filed a complaint on 16 June, 2015 regarding the matter in the BDO office. The BDO after a long delay conducted a hearing on the case and said that he would inspect all relevant documents and would also conduct a spot verification on 2 December, 2015. But on the stipulated date when Mr Shyamraj Rajbhor went to the BDO office to produce the documents obtained through RTI application as well as the lists of BPL candidates of the area etc., he found that the BDO had already left the office. When Mr Rajbhor called him up he was asked to go to the house of one Mr Ravi Malakar of village Rajnagar in Ramkrishna Nagar area.

The incident: According to Mr Rajbhor, he along with some other union members and the supposed beneficiaries of the IYA in the area who were deprived due to the mis-allocation went to the said house, but the house owner did not permit them to enter his premises. Later on, after further telephonic conversations with the BDO, who was already inside the house, Mr Ravi Malakar informed that he would allow only Mr Rajbhor to come inside and meet the BDO. Accordingly Mr Rajbhor accompanied the house owner and met the BDO.  Mr Rajbhor produced the documents regarding the alleged wrong allocation of IAY housing fund but the BDO claimed that the documents were false and the particular house regarding which the complaint was made was that very house of Mr Ravi Malakar. But when Mr Rajbhor insisted that it was not true, the BDO got furious and started abusing and hitting, punching and kicking him. Then the other eight persons present there, who were allegedly hired by the BDO, namely Mr Shibu Das, Mr Paplu Dev, Mr Jontu Das, Mr Piklu Dev, Mr  Shundangshu Dev, Mr Moni Malakar and Mr Ravi Malakar also started beating him up. They repeatedly punched him on the head, face and other parts of the body. They also kicked him when he fell down on the floor. Hearing hue and cry generated by this Ms Aradhana Rajbhor also entered the premises and came forward to help her husband. She was also assaulted and molested by the perpetrators, according to her. When the other persons along with the driver of their vehicle tried to enter the premises another two persons stopped them in the gate and threatened to beat them up brandishing bamboo sticks. They also snatched the files containing the documents regarding the alleged corruption. When Mr Rajbhor almost became senseless the perpetrators took him aboard a Bollero car and started to move the vehicle but again threw him out a few metres away. Then his companions took him and his wife to the local hospital from where they were referred to the Santosh Kumar Roy Civil Hospital in Hailakandi town. They were admitted there and treated for seven days. Thereafter, they were released with the prescription of one month’s complete bed rest. At the time of filing this report they were still under medications.

Aftermath: A complaint detailing the incident was lodged on 2 December, 2015 at Ramkrishna Nagar Police Station. According to the MSU members, no case was registered till date and the statements of the victims and the witnesses were not recorded. According to Union President Mr Altaf Khan, “the attitude of the police is very questionable as the miscreants are not arrested till now”. Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) is concerned that if no action is immediately taken against the alleged perpetrators the path of justice for the victims may get difficult and such intimidating attacks on human rights defenders working in the area may be repeated.

Recommendations: 1. A case under the appropriate sections of law should immediately be registered against the accused BDO and his accomplices.

  1. All the accused including the BDO should be arrested immediately.
  1. A prompt and objective investigation into the case should be conducted under the supervision of a Deputy Superintendent of Police leading to filing of charge sheets as soon as possible.
  1. Adequate amount of interim compensation as well as ex-gratia for their treatments should be paid to the victims.
  1. The state should provide security to the leading members of the Mojuri Sramik Union and other human rights defenders who are at risk of such attacks.
  1. An additional case of misappropriation of public money by the public servant must be registered regarding the wrong allotment of Indira Awas Yojana.
  1. Any other appropriate actions for creating a safe and friendly environment for those who are defending rights of people guaranteed under the constitution of India and human rights treatises to which India is a state party.

How the NRC updation in Assam threatens to render a large section of Bengali settlers in the state stateless

September 13, 2015

Joydeep Biswas

A riot victim woman whose house was burnt down by the militants takes shelter at a relief camp in Narayanguri village in Baksa district of Assam. Photo: The Hindu

A riot victim woman whose house was burnt down by the militants takes shelter at a relief camp in Narayanguri village in Baksa district of Assam. Photo: The Hindu

Very few in mainland India are aware at the moment that a process of citizens’ registration on the basis of racial profiling is under way on the eastern fringe of the country. The national media — both print and electronic — has not cared even to report the ongoing preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), leave alone analysing the legal nuances involved in the action and the possible plight of the ‘denizens’.

This exercise, initiated through a gazette notification dated December 5, 2013 by the Registrar General of India, was initially due to be completed within a time span of three years. But the judgment delivered by a Division Bench of the honourable Supreme Court (Coram JJ, R. Gogoi, R.F. Nariman), dated 17 December 2014, advanced the due date of publication of the final NRC to January 1, 2016. The whole exercise, set off in a selective manner only for the State of Assam, is meant for detection, detention and deportation of the illegal migrants who crossed over to Assam from Bangladesh on or after March 25, 1971.

The vexed issue of infiltration and expulsion of foreigners in Assam, which has dominated the political theatre of the State for over three decades, has got close links with the very history of the subcontinent. Colonial history of the State dates back to 1826 when, under the Treaty of Yandabo, the then geography of what is now called Assam came under the British rule. And the tract was made a part of the Bengal Presidency which, of course, included the erstwhile East Bengal as well.

The first partition of Bengal

In a different turn of events, Cachar, now one of the three districts forming the Barak Valley in southern Assam, was annexed by the Britishers after the fall of the Kachari Kingdom in 1832, and was also made a part of the huge Bengal Presidency. Such arrangements were made much before the first Government of India Act, 1858 through which control over the Indian territories held by the British East India Company was vested in the British queen.

They effectively meant that people of Bengal and of Assam — transcending ethnicity, language and culture — lived within the same administrative jurisdiction and under the same political dispensation.

In 1874, by a whimsical decision of the British government, two districts of East Bengal — Sylhet (along with Cachar) and Goalpara — were separated from the Bengal Presidency, and were joined with Assam to create a new administrative unit which was placed under a Chief Commissioner. This was technically the first Partition of Bengal, a development that unfortunately escaped the attention of the mainstream scholarship.

Much has been written and read about the partition of Bengal in 1905, and its eventual rollback in 1911. However, surprisingly enough, historians of modern India have shown cruel indifference to the cultural knifing of 1874, due to which the Bengalis of Sylhet and Goalpara of the then East Bengal, for no fault of theirs, had to shift their allegiance to a completely different cultural geography.

The colonial power had its own fiscal logic. Sylhet, a revenue-rich district in British India, was tagged with a revenue-deficit Assam to address the administrative purpose of fiscal rationalisation. These two districts thereafter continued to exist inside the administrative boundary of Assam for the remaining length of the colonial rule. In 1947, Sylhet was lost to Pakistan on the basis of the outcome of an allegedly rigged referendum.

The communal carnage that took over the subcontinent resulted in the biggest displacement of people in the recorded history. The humanitarian crisis had its ramifications both on the eastern and the western boundaries of the newly liberated India. But in terms of number, intensity and continuity, impact of the exodus felt on the eastern front far exceeded that on the west. The internal political turmoil, coupled with communal riots first in East Pakistan, and then in Bangladesh, made sure movements across the boundary remained a regular feature even after 1971.

This repeated redrawing of political map of Assam, along with that of the twin valleys of Surma and Barak by the colonial rulers, showing utter disregard to the sentiments of the Assamese and the Bengalis, is causally connected to the emergence of the parochial political patriarchs who assumed power in the Assam in the post-Independence India. Assamese middle-class saw in the British actions of administering Bengali settlement on their own land an evil design of linguistic hegemony. Hence, in the post-colonial Assam, they tried to correct history.

In a bid to retaliate, the Assamese elites, who by then had got a fair share of political power, began to treat Bengali settlers on Assam’s soil as ‘cultural foreigners’. The genesis of the anti-foreigner movement, spearheaded by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) during 1979-85, thus, dates back to the series of above happenings where politics played mayhem with culture.

The bogey of ‘infiltration’

There was no evidence provided by either the government or the academia about the scale of cross-border movement of people. Despite that, the xenophobic movement launched by the AASU during the early 1980s was successful in convincing the Indian establishment that a ‘marauding infiltration’ by Bangladeshi nationals from across the border was putting the Assamese language and culture in great danger.

The six-year-long violent agitation, which left hundreds dead and thousands traumatised, culminated in the inking of the Assam Accord on August 14-15, 1985. This tripartite memorandum of settlement between the Centre, the Assam government and the AASU leadership was considered ‘historic’ in the Brahmaputra Valley. The Citizenship Act, 1955 was suitably amended by the Parliament to incorporate Section 6(a), bringing in a special provision of citizenship for Assam.

The legislative passage engineered by the Rajiv Gandhi government, which had a brute majority in both the Houses, did not care for the history, geography and anthropology of colonial Assam. The Nellie pogrom of February 18, 1983, in which more than 2,000 Bengali-speaking people, including women and children, were butchered, was conveniently forgotten by the Indian state. That gory incident has never been given enough attention in the media.

Legitimisation of racial violence

Successive governments have not been able to bring the killers to justice. To the contrary, the metamorphosis of AASU into Asom Gana Parishad and its eventual victory in Assembly elections has practically legitimised the racial killings.

The Bengali speaking citizens in Assam now face a new kind of terror, this time, from the Indian government. On the strength of an agreement, the State government is now active in the preparation of the National Register of Citizens. This is aimed at labelling lakhs of Bengali-speaking citizens as ‘illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators’.

The relevant rules and provisions in the statute book, including the Citizenship Act, 1955; the Foreigners Expulsion Act, 1946; the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950; the Foreigners Tribunals Order, 1964; and the Citizenship Rules, 2003 (as amended in 2009 and 2010), have all been very carefully crafted over the years to evict from Assam the Partition victims of erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

The Indian government has decided to upgrade the NRC only for the State of Assam even though, ideally, the exercise should have covered the entire country. The purpose of this official action is not difficult to decipher. The stringent set of conditions attached to the process requires the Bengalis of Assam to prove their Indian citizenship solely on the basis of their or their ancestors’ names appearing on the electoral rolls published up to 25 March 1971 and the NRC of 1951, failing which they would be thrown out of the updated NRC.

To make things complicated for these people, such electoral rolls are found to be both incorrect and incomplete. On the other hand, their Assamese and tribal counterparts would find easy inclusion, by virtue of being the ‘original inhabitants of Assam beyond reasonable doubt’.

The key question that confronts us now is: what would happen to these hapless Bengali settlers? In the absence of any bilateral arrangement between India and Bangladesh, the latter is not ready to take them back. This implies that lakhs of such Indian citizens, who have had their names on the Indian electoral rolls for the past four decades, and who are in possession of Electoral Photo Identity Card, would be rendered stateless. Going by the existing deportation norms and practices, they will just be evicted to the no man’s land on the Indo-Bangla border, that too in the dead of night. It will be a shameful moment for India, a proud signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(Joydeep Biswas is an associate professor of economics in Cachar College, Assam (Central) University.E-mail: joydbiswas@gmail.com)

The piece was first published in the Hindu and can be accessed here http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-starkness-of-being-nowhere/article7633845.ece

Assam: The displaced Reangs in Hailakandi district

October 3, 2012

The Reangs are a tribe mostly living in Mizoram state of North East India. They are also known as Brus.  Their displacement is mainly the result of the ethnic clash with the dominant Mizos in Mizoram.

In this Article (The Displaced Reangs in Hailakandi Districtby Abdul Mannan Mazumder and Bornali Bhattacharjree, an attempt has been made to reflect briefly on the displacement of this small ethnic group as a good number of Reangs took shelter in the Assam–Mizoram border in the southern-most part of Hailakandi district of Assam in 1997.

The Article was published in an anthology of papers/articles on Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) in North East India titled Blisters on their Feet: Tales of Internally Displaced Persons in India’s North East edited by Samir Kumar Das and published by Sage Publications in 2008.

It is posted here only for information of the concerned and interested people and not for any commercial purpose. Readers/viewers are requested to get a copy of the book for reference and other purposes.

(BHRPC does not guarantee the authenticity of the statistics and information cited in the article and the authors/editor/publisher are solely responsible for views expressed.)

To view/read/download click here.

 

 

 

NHRC moved over custodial death and communal clash in Assam

July 19, 2012

Media brief for immediate release—

19 July 2012

 NHRC moved over custodial death and communal clash in Assam

 Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has moved the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over custodial death of Ajijur Rahman of Kalain in the district of Cachar in Assam. A complaint has been filed at the NHRC based on the report of a fact-finding study conducted by the BHRPC on 19 July 2012. The study found that Ajijur Rahman, an old man of about 60 years, was picked up on 7 July from his home by a police team led by a probationary Indian Police Service officer Mr Y T Gyatsu and he was tortured to death at the police lock-up of Kalain patrol post.

The report released on 19 July[1] has also dwelt on the communal clash on 4 July at Kalain bazaar that led to the illegal arrest and brutal killing of Ajijur Rahman. The report categorically says that negligent and inefficient handling of the situation by the authorities including executive magistrate Ms Khaleda Sultana Ahmed, Deputy Superintendent of Police (probationary) Mr Iftikar Ali and in-charge of Kalain police patrol post Mr Anowar Hussain Choudhury were mostly responsible for the clash. They failed to handle the mob frenzy. It is claimed that they could take measures including lathi charge and tear gas fire. These measures could disperse the mob. Due to the negligence and inefficiency of the authorities about 18 people were injured in the clash. Six of them sustained serious injuries. It amounts to violation of human rights within the meaning of section 12 (a) (ii) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

It is also found that efforts of forcible enforcement of strikes on 4 July by supporters of the Hindu Jagaran Mancha and communal mass hysteria of some Muslim youths of Kalain were also responsible for the communal clash. The BHRPC maintained that every citizen and group of citizens has the right to protest and call strike provided that it is peaceful and the organizers do not force others to take part in the protest. The Mancha broke the conditions for legitimacy of the strike by forcing others.

The fact-finding report further dwelt on the efforts of effecting communal divisions in Barak valley over the controversial conversion and second marriage of Dr. Rumee Nath, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Assam. It is stated that the right to get converted into any religion is a part of the freedom of conscience and free profession of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Per se inter-religious and inter-caste marriages are also recognised by the Special Marriage Act, 1955 and such marriage should be encouraged as they can promote harmonious communal co-existence and secularism. However, in case of Dr. Nath the things are a little different. She was a married woman with a two years old child. Bigamy or living with another person as man and wife during the subsistence of earlier marriage prima facie amount to offence against the institution of marriage. Abandoning a 2 year old child is cruelty on the child and violation of child rights. These grievances against her could be legitimately vented through legal means and judicial process and which was what her first husband resorted to.

It is further alleged that some groups conjured up spectre of ‘love jihad’ and started campaign against inter-religious and inter-caste marriages, friendship between girls and boys belonging to different communities. These activities are assault on the rule of law.

The report stated that a very influential politician of the ruling congress party in Assam Mr Gautom Roy, Minister for Public Health and Engineering (PHE), at a public function organised to mark 3 years of Assam government issued a call to the public to beat up any boy who marries a girl from a different community and to hand over the girl to her guardians. Provoked and encouraged by this call a mob of more than one hundred youths attacked Dr Nath and her ‘second husband’ at about 10pm on 29 June 2012 at Hotel Nakshatra in Karimganj where she was staying for the night after visiting her constituency.

The BHRPC could not confirm any direct links of the minister with the attack on Dr Nath and the mob that attacked her. But it is obvious that his call to beat up such couples definitely encouraged the mob. The comment of the minister is not only against the established constitutional canons of the land and principles of human rights but also a provocation to breach the public order and a call towards further lawlessness and jungle raj. Any person including a minister may disagree with any law and in such cases he should propose repeal or amendment of the law if he is sincere in his opinions. A minister who is part of the party that rules at the central and state governments should have proposed amendment of Article 14, 21 and 25 of the constitution and the Special Marriage Act, 1955 if he sincerely thought that conversion and inter-religious marriages are undesirable. By provoking youths he betrayed his motives.

The attack on Dr Nath is a manifestation of desperate reactions of patriarchy and its interests against the empowerment of women and empowered women. These are attacks on expression of moral agency in women. She was abused and attacked only because she was a woman.

Apart from the brutality of police personnel, Ajijur Rahman was a victim of the situation that was thus created.

 For any clarification and more information you may contact:

 Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

 Mobile: 09401942234

Email: wali.laskar@gmail.com


 

 

 

NHRC pulls up Assam over hunger deaths and rights violations

May 29, 2012

Guwahati, 29 May 2012: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) pulled up the government of Assam over hunger deaths of tea labourers and other cases of human rights violations. In its camp sitting in Guwahati held on 28 May 2012 the NHRC heard about 50 pending cases relating to Assam state of North East India.

’Out of 17 cases, which the full commission heard, at least 6 cases were closed after the commission got satisfactory answers from the state authorities. In the other cases, the commission has given time to the authorities to respond to its recommendations. The commission recommended about rupees (Indian currency) 1.8 million (18 lakh) as monetary relief in different cases of human rights violations’, NHRC said in a release to the press.

‘In the matter relating to starvation deaths in the Bhuvan valley tea estate in Cachar district, the commission has asked the state government to pay rupees 0.2 million each to the two tea garden workers and rupees 0.1 million (1 lakh) each to about 13 dependents of the workers who died due to starvation. The Commission has also directed the state government to inquire whether the Tea Association of India (TAI) was distributing the food grains properly among the workers or not’ said the NHRC. The government provides the tea workers with food items from the Public Distribution System (PDS) through the TAI which is not favorably seen by the commission.

The NHRC release further stated that in a case relating to rehabilitation of children rendered orphan or destitute in communal riots in upper Assam districts, the commission asked the state government to identify the child victims without any further delay and give financial assistance to them and sent compliance report along with proof of payment within eight weeks. The Commission observed that it is the negligence of officers that led to orphaned children not getting timely assistance despite the fact that so many years have past since the riots.

In the cases relating to force prostitution of three women in Cachar district, the commission asked the state government to pay rupees one lakh each to the three victims. The government was also asked to inquire whether there was any organized activity going on in the state ofAssamto bring girls from Meghalaya to Cachar and Silchar and forced them into prostitution. The authorities have been asked to take action against the guilty.

On the issue of witch hunting, the state authorities admitted that this practice is prevalent in backward and distantly located places. During last five years, about 88 women and over 40 men  became victims of such incidents. The commission has asked the state authorities to create awareness among people and strive for fast investigation and speedy trial in incidents of witch hunting to at the deterrent.

The commission also heard encounter and custodial death cases in its two division benches and asked the police authorities to scrupulously adhere to its guidelines and submit all the reports to the commission timely for early disposal of such cases.

The Assam based human rights group Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), the group that has been reporting the starvation deaths of tea workers and fighting for their cause and complainant in several other cases, said that this move of the NHRC to dispose of pending cases expediently and to reach out to the remote areas in a bid to sensitize the government officials and talk with the civil society groups are great steps and have been long overdue. This will go a long to protect rights of the people encouraging the independent human rights defenders and the recommendations and observations of the NHRC will work as strong disincentive to the potential violators among the officials.

Hunger Alert: Urge India to save her people from hunger death

May 21, 2012

Dear friends,

Very shockingly, the enforced conditions of starvation and famine and resultant tragedy of hunger deaths of the tea workers of Assam still persists with its all menacing ugliness. Labourers of tea estates in this North East Indian state known worldwide for tea production are dying one after another due to malnutrition and lack of proper health care.

So far 15 workers of a particular tea garden in South Assam died and several others are counting their days, according to the information available with the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).

 Please support the tea workers and sign the petition:

 Further information:

The BHRPC conducted a fact-finding study during the last days of January 2012 in the Bhuvan valley tea garden after receiving reports of hunger deaths and released a fact-finding report on 1 February revealing information about deaths of 10 residents of the estate allegedly caused by starvation, malnutrition and lack of proper health care. After that deaths of four more persons were reported.

The latest unfortunate death was of Lakhi Prasad Dushad, a permanent worker of the estate and a resident of North bank division who died on 3 May 2012.

He was only 38 years old. He left behind him his wife Imti Dushad (aged about 30), his sons Kishan Dushad (15), Eleven Dushad (13), Sujit Dushad (11), Hitesh Dushad (8) and 5 year old daughter Sweetie Dushad. Their survival is uncertain and matter of grave concern.

Lakhi Sabor, wife of Giridhari Sabor of Boali area in the garden. She is very weak and has low appetite and low vision.

Lakhi Sabor, wife of Giridhari Sabor of Boali area in the garden. She is very weak and has low appetite and low vision.

It all started in this tea estate, owned by a private company based in Kolkata (West Bengal),  when the owners closed down the estate on 8 October 2011 and abandoned the labourrer, about 500 of whom were permanent and another 1000 casual workers, in response to their demands for payment of outstanding dues of wages, increase in the wages which was about Rs. 41,00 for casual workers and Rs. 55.00 for permanent workers and far below the statutory minimum wages and payment of other withheld benefits. He illegal closure of the estate resulted in loss of means of livelihood of the workers that pushed them into the condition of starvation and famine leading to the deaths and death-like condition of living. The rights of plantation workers to fair wage, bonus, provident fund, housing and basic medical facilities in accordance with the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 have not been enforced. In the course of closure, the government also failed to make any intervention to guarantee their fundamental rights to live with dignity. It is further found that basic medical care and food distribution for the poor under the government schemes including the ICDS did not properly reach even those workers who lost their livelihoods and that it was one of the causes that led to the deaths.

Even after deaths of so many people the central government ofIndiaand the state government ofAssamhave not yet taken any effective actions for amelioration of the situation except some inquiries designed to serve as a cover-up. Therefore, workers in the garden are still dying.

In view of the above and the commitment ofIndiato the protection of human rights of every citizen and prevention of starvation deaths, the BHRPC urges that:

A. The authorities should provide urgent relief to the tea workers in terms of food supply and medical treatment to prevent further deaths and deterioration of health conditions of sick workers and their dependents.

B. The authorities should conduct a prompt, impartial and objective inquiry into the situation of the garden to fix responsibility for the deaths and the conditions that led to this situation including corruption in implementation of government welfare schemes and non-adherence to the provisions of the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 and other laws applicable in the estate management by an independent commission of inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of a high court or the supreme court and comprising of, among others, medical experts, nutrition experts, labour rights and human rights experts.

C. The officials or other persons who would be found negligent and derelict in their legal duties and responsibilities that directly contributed to the developing of the situation that led to the deaths should be prosecuted according to law.

D. The kin and the dependent of the deceased person should be provided with adequate reparation so far money can provide.

E. The authorities should ensure that all outstanding dues of the labourers are paid immediately and the wages of all tea labourers ofAssammade equal for the time being and that the tea gardens are run according to the laws providing all rights and benefits to the labourers under the laws.

In sum, we would also like to see assumption of some moral responsibility for these calamitious circumstances of death under conditions of hunger and malnutrition, instead of a mere legalistic standpoint. We expect that the Govt. at the state and the Centre should speak the truth and does not issue mere denials in a circumlocutory fashion. In this situation of famished deaths, “ought” is more important than “is”.

Please support the tea workers and sign the petition:

 

Bablu Bauri lying in his courtyard. His father Atul Bauri died of hunger recently.

Bablu Bauri lying in his courtyard. His father died of hunger recently.

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More information:

The sources of important information in detail about the starvation deathsand the condition of the tea workers that can be found in the internet are given below:

 

BHRPC reports on the continuous tragedy in Bhuvan valley tea estate

1. Preliminary fact-finding report:

            Tea labourers dying of hunger in Assam

            (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/hungeralert1/)

 

2. Update-I:

 

            Situation of hunger deteriorates in Assam tea garden

            (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/situation-of-hunger-deteriorates-in-assam-tea-garden/)

3. Update-II:

             Two more people died in Assam tea garden

             (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/hungeralert3/)

4. Update-III:

            Assam government’s actions regarding starvation deaths are inadequate and misleading

         (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/assam-governments-actions-in-starvation-deaths-are-inadequate-and-misleading/)

5. Update-IV:

             Deaths continue unabated in Assam tea garden

            (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/hungeralert4/)

6. Update-V:

             Another death in starving tea garden of Assam

            (https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/hunger-alert-5/)

 

Reports and actions by other organizations:

1. Hunger Alert issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:

            INDIA: Assam government failed to ensure the right to life with dignity of tea plantation workers leading to ten deaths

            (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/hunger-alerts/AHRC-HAC-002-2012)

2. Update on the AHRC Hunger Alert:

            INDIA: Two more estate workers die from starvation while the government denies responsibility

            (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/hunger-alerts/AHRC-HAU-001-2012)

3. Preliminary report of the People’s Rights Forum and other oganisations:

            Other civil society groups corroborate hunger deaths in Assam tea garden

(https://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/bhuvan-valley-other-ngos/)

 

News reports and articles in the media (important ones only)

1. 19 January 2012:

            Inquiry into Cachar hunger deaths

            (http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120119/jsp/northeast/story_15021706.jsp) –News report in the Telegraph

2. 5 February 2012:

Swami Agnivesh writes to Assam CM on starvation deaths

(http://www.sentinelassam.com/cachar/story.php?sec=2&subsec=12&id=105944&dtP=2012-02-05&ppr=1) – News report in the Sentinel

3.  9 February 2012:

            Tea workers die of starvation

            (http://www.asianage.com/india/tea-workers-die-starvation-031) – News report in the Asian Age

            Rights group seeks prove into starvation deaths

            (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-09/guwahati/31041559_1_starvation-deaths-rights-group-inquiry-panel) – News report in the Times of India

4. 21 February 2012:

Stay hungry: The story behind Assam tea

(http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arijitsen/148/63192/stay-hungry-the-story-behind-assam-tea.html) – News reports and talk show in CNN-IBN

5. 25 February 2012

Did they die of hunger? The Question Haunts Barak Valley

(http://tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ne250212Hunger.asp) – Current Affairs report in the Tehelka Magazine

6. February 2012:

            Tea Industry in Barak Valley vis-à-vis Assam and The Plight of The Tea workers (http://swabhimanngo.blogspot.in/2012/02/tea-industry-in-barak-valley-vis-vis.html) –Blog Article in Swabhiman

7. 5 March 2012:

            Team of doctors confirm malnutrition of tea workers

            (http://www.deccanherald.com/content/232180/team-doctors-confirm-malnutrition-tea.html) – News report in the Deccan Herald

8. 13 March 2012

Dispur rap on garden for deaths

<http://vv.telegraphindia.com/1120314/jsp/northeast/story_15246290.jsp&gt; – News report in the Telegraph

9. 1 April 2012:

Bhuban Valley TE labourers not getting loans from PF

(http://sevensisterspost.com/?p=1944) – News report in the Seven Sisters Post

10. 4 April 2012:

            Assam government fails to protect right to life with dignity of tea workers

            (http://newsblaze.com/story/20120404060251zzzz.nb/topstory.html) – Op-ed article in the Newsblaze

11. 18 May 2012

            The dark side of India’s tea industry

            (http://www.france24.com/en/20120518-india-tea-estates-assam-malnutrition-workers-rights) – News report and analysis in the France 24 Television

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Please support the tea workers and sign the petition:

 

––––––––––––––––––––––

Guwahati, Assam

21 May 2012

Fore any clarification or further information contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Mobile: +91 9401942234

Email:wali.laskar@gmail.com

France 24 reports starvation deaths of Assam tea workers

May 19, 2012

After the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) released reports on deaths of workers due to starvation, malnutrition and lack health care in the Bhuvan valley tea estate of south Assam, many national and international media groups along with some rights groups including the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have taken up the matter and in their own ways attempted to address the situation. Latest one is a report that has been broadcast today by FRANCE 24 Television, an international news channel based in Paris, on the basis of the findings of an independent investigation undertaken by its correspondents Natacha Butler and Vikram Singh. They found that people are still dying due to malnutrition and several others are suffering from diseases related to chronic malnutrition due to low wages and absence of medical facilities in violations of laws passed by the Indian parliament as well as international human rights laws. Here is the report:

The dark side of India’s tea industry

Indians are the world’s biggest tea drinkers and producers. Half of the country’s entire output comes from the north-eastern state ofAssam, but the conditions for many of those who work on its tea plantations are appalling. Workers earn well below the minimum wage and malnutrition is also common. Laws about facilities and conditions on tea estates exist, but many don’t comply. Our correspondents Natacha Butler and Vikram Singh went to visit one such estate in the south ofAssam.

By Natacha BUTLER / Vikram Singh

http://www.france24.com/en/sites/all/modules/maison/aef_player/flash/player_new.swf

 

Found at http://www.france24.com/en/20120518-india-tea-estates-assam-malnutrition-workers-rights accessed on 18 May 2012