Xenophobia and Hate Crimes Grow in BJP-ruled Assam

IN Tinsukia, Assam, five Bengali speaking Dalit labourers, Subal Das, Shyamol Biswas, Abinash Biswas, Dhananjoy Namasudra and Ananta Biswas, were massacred by an unidentified group on 1 November 2018. The lone survivor of the massacre, Sahadev Namashudra, said that a group of men wearing Army fatigues came to their village in the evening, called them out of their homes, lined them up and opened fire. Sahadev said that while the assailants spoke Assamese to each other, they spoke Hindi to their victims.       

Tinsukia Massacre

The BJP and its Central and Assam Governments has the blood of the five Tinsukia massacre victims on its hands. This massacre takes place in the backdrop of an intense hate campaign against alleged 'illegal Bangladeshi immigrants', orchestrated by the BJP which rules Assam and the Centre. BJP national president Amit Shah in a recent speech referred to those excluded from the National Register of Citizens exercise that is ongoing in Assam, as 'termites'. The BJP is pushing a campaign for a Citizenship Amendment Bill that will, effectively be a 'Hindu Rashtra Bill' which makes Hindu identity a basis for offering citizenship to immigrants/refugees while refusing the same to non-Hindu migrants/refugees from neighbouring countries.

Suicides and Detention Camp Horrors

The BJP state Government of Assam has failed to ensure the safety of people in the State, leaving them vulnerable to such horrific hate campaigns and violence. It has done nothing to ease the pressures and uncertainties of the NRC exercise which have pushed a large number of persons (at least 33) to commit suicide. In October-November 2018 alone, there were reportedly 5 such suicides.

A rights activist who has been tracking the NRC and “D-voter” (Doubtful voter) related suicide cases, told Telegraph, “Most of the dead were doubtful voters and they died because of the complexity of the NRC process — were indicted as foreigners, couldn’t avail legacy details and finally gave in to fear. It is a sad backdrop.”

A recent note by the Citizens for Justice and Peace led by Teesta Setalvad has raised concerns about the inhuman conditions of detention camps in which D-voters are held, observing that the detention camps are “dark, dank and dreary modern day purgatory-like limbo lands, where those who are Declared Foreigner (DF) by Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) are condemned to spend their time till they are able to either secure bail or have the FT judgment overturned by a higher court.” The CJP team found a man who had been held as a detainee in a detention camp, handcuffed to a bed while undergoing treatment in a hospital - such treatment is against the law even for convicted criminals!   

Consigning those whose citizenship status is in doubt, to detention camps is in violation of a whole host of international human rights conventions as well as the Constitution of India which upholds the right to life, liberty, and equality before law.

Harassment of Migrant Workers

On 13 November, cadres of the the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) caught seven migrant construction labourers who had travelled from Dhubri district to Golaghat district. The AASU cadre forced the labourers to get down from a bus at Bokakhat bus stop, made them kneel and catch their ears in a humiliating posture, interrogated them and ‘scrutinised’ their identity proofs and later “handed them over” to the Police Station. The AASU leaders declared:“We are taking a pledge that we will prevent these Bengali speaking labourers from working at the construction sites if they are not possessing valid documents. If police do not stop, we will do it.” Similarly, student outfits like All Assam Chutia Students’ Union and Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad have also been indulging in extra-legal detentions and vigilante harassment of migrant labourers.

Just as BJP rule has emboldened vigilante violence by ‘Gau Raksha’ squads all over India, it is emboldening vigilante xenophobic harassment and violence in Assam. What gives any student organisation a right to force migrant workers to kneel in humiliating positions and “check” their identity papers? This is a blatant violation of the human rights of migrant workers.
The BJP’s politics depends for its survival and growth on xenophobia, communalism, fear, hatred, suspicion and divisions among people. Exploiting the historic demographic anxieties and genuine historical concerns in Assam about hegemonic attempts to erode Assam’s language and culture, the BJP and various vested interests are inciting suspicions and hatred against the most vulnerable communities - poor migrant labourers - by painting them as dangerous and subhuman “termites” or “terrorists”. In the process the BJP does not care if it plunges Assam into fresh bouts of strife and conflict. The people of Assam and India need to be vigilant against such politics, resist and defeat it.

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