Forced eviction to target Bengali-speaking Muslims by projecting them as ‘invaders’: investigation report – TwoCircles.net

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Corrugated iron sheets and straw stubble are the only options for evicted families for shelter amid the cold breeze blowing near the Brahmaputra River. | Photo: Janhastakshep

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Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government of Assam in 2016, the state has witnessed a wave of evictions uprooting thousands of people. The forced eviction campaign became widespread after Himanta Biswa Sarma took office as chief minister in 2021.

Mahibul Hoque | TwoCircles.net

GUWAHATI – The campaign for the forced eviction of Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam by the state government was aimed at serving “special interests with ulterior motives” against people who have been victims of climate-induced displacement and who are cultivating already the earth, according to an investigative report by Indian academics and anti-displacement activists.

Moinul Hoque and a miner Cheikh Farid were shot dead by state police during the deportation campaign on September 23. people, ”the report said, referring to the uprooting of more than a thousand families who have been displaced from their homes.

Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government of Assam in 2016, the state has witnessed a wave of evictions uprooting thousands of people. The forced eviction campaign became widespread after Himanta Biswa Sarma took office as chief minister in 2021.

The investigation team, an initiative of Janhastakshep included Professor Vikas Bajpai of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Professor Biswajeet Mahonty of Delhi University and Bhubaneshwar-based journalist and anti-displacement activist Sudhir Pattnaik. They traveled to the area where 12-year-old Moinul Hoque and Cheikh Farid were shot dead by state police during the September 23 expulsion campaign.

Professor Bajpai, author of the investigation report, underscored the BJP government’s conception of targeting poor Bengali Muslims by portraying them as “invaders” and invoking Assamese nationalism.

“Deception exercised”
The district police administration “deliberately used deception” to catch people off guard. Citing the eviction notice given to a villager, the investigative team in its report said that the notice was served on him (Zaheerul Islam) at midnight on the night of September 19, and the following morning, the police and administration came down to his home to demolish him.

“The words indicating that he was to be evicted from his home within three months of receiving the notice had been erased in white ink. This clearly illustrates the intention of the administration.

The evicted families interact with All India Kisan Sabha leaders who accompanied the Janhastakshek investigative team made up of academics from JNU and Delhi University. | Photo: Janhastakshep

The victims refused to be compensated
The team said the state government had little intention of providing adequate compensation or rehabilitating those evicted.

“The government is imposing post-facto conditions to compensate affected people such as those whose names appear in the NRC, or the onus is on people to prove they did not illegally occupy any land,” the report read. investigation.

The investigative team denounced the comment by Chief Minister of Assam, Sarma, that only 60 families lived in villages affected by the forced eviction campaign. “We found out that a total of 966 families representing around seven thousand people were evicted. In addition, those evicted pointed out that more than half of the 77,000 bighas allegedly invaded had already been eroded by the Brahmaputra. “

Temple in the background
The report pointed out that the conflicts in the villages started with the demand to “liberate the encroachment on temple lands” by a certain section of Hindus living at a distance, where they requested that 180 bigha lands from an elder. temple are encroached by Muslim inhabitants.

The so-called ancient temple – a temple of Shiva located at the top of the hill in the village of Dholpur No.2 – was erected by Parvati Das’ husband in 1983-84.

The investigative team alleged that “there is an ulterior motive behind the Assam government’s decision of forced evictions,” and said Parvati’s testimony corroborated their claims.

Muslims helped build the temple
According to the report, Parvati Das said that the Sattra (temples of Vaishnavite worship in Assam) in the village of Dhalpur was created by her husband. Even though there were no Hindu families in the neighborhood, Muslim households in the village had contributed to the construction of the temple.

After the temple was built, some Hindus belonging to the villages of the Brahmaputra began to perform puja in the temple and formed a committee to manage its affairs. At the request of the temple committee, the temple was allocated 120 bighas of land to generate income for its upkeep. However, this land has been eroded by the river over the years, and now a new demand has been raised by the committee for the allocation of 175 bighas of land.

Temple founder house destroyed in eviction campaign
Although Parvati’s husband created the temple, she had little to say about temple affairs after her husband passed away. His house was also destroyed in the June series of evictions in the village of Dholpur Two.

The Assam government was planning to convert the alleged 77,000 bigha lands in the riverine sandbank into an agricultural farm for job creation for “indigenous peoples”. Obviously, however, the land has been used by villagers who are mostly victims of climate-induced displacement using their traditional agricultural knowledge.

Mahibul Hoque is a SEED member of TwoCircles.net. He tweets to @H_Mahibul.

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