On Barak Valley Bandh on 16th December, 2016 – Some Nascent Observations: Arunima Chakraborty

This is a Guest Post by ARUNIMA CHAKRABORTY

Let’s begin with the usual: by ruing over Indian mainstream media’s overlooking of what could have been treated as more newsworthy. Today, that is, 16th of December, 2016 witnessed a bandh in southern Assam’s Barak valley protesting against the statement by the union minister of state for railways, Rajen Gohain that ‘Bengali…should be withdrawn from Barak valley as official language’ since ‘there cannot be two official languages’.[1] And a simple, layman-like google-news search reveals that there are just three entries on the issue/event.

This piece is aimed not at joining the state Congress and the local SUCI(Socialist Unity Centre of India) cadres who are decrying comment by Gohain, the union minister and a senior BJP leader in Assam but rather at attempting a delineation of the ominous portents which it seems to have unleashed. And of course, to trace the genealogy of the statement.

First of all, a rather facile fact: Mr. Gohain’s observation that there cannot be two official languages clashes with article 345 of the Indian constitution which allows for the adoption of one or more official languages by any state of the Indian union. Article 347 also allows for respecting the desire of a significant section of a populace of a state for the usage of a language of their choice.[2] A couple of months ago, while visiting Assam, I watched, or rather listened, on an Assamese news channel, a shrill voice issuing a caveat to its viewers, “…barak upatyakat asomiya bhasha nokoya hoiche”. ‘Assamese is no longer spoken in the Barak valley’. Anybody remotely familiar with the history of the region could have retorted back with the question, when was Assamese ever spoken in the region?

Continue reading “On Barak Valley Bandh on 16th December, 2016 – Some Nascent Observations: Arunima Chakraborty”

Oppose the Communally Motivated Proposed Amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955 : Delhi Action Committee for Assam

Guest Post by Delhi Action Committee for Assam

The proposed amendment to India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 has raised grave concern among democratic circles in Assam and in other parts of the country. The proposed amendment reads that “persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act” and that for persons belonging to the aforementioned minority communities, “the aggregate period of residence or service of a Government in India as required under this clause shall be read as ‘not less than six years’ in place of ‘not less than eleven years’.” The proposed amendment which is being considered by a Joint Parliamentary Committee is indeed is a matter of grave concern for the whole of India. Government officials have claimed that the decision to grant Indian citizenship to the above mentioned discriminated religious communities in neighbouring countries is premised on ‘humanitarian grounds’. Notwithstanding this benevolent claim by the government, one needs to carefully place this proposed amendment in perspective.

The proposed amendment is premised on the religious persecution of non-Muslim minorities in neighbouring Muslim majority countries. While religious basis have ‘softly’ underlined India’s approaches to the issue of immigration since the Partition, what is alarming with the amendment proposed by the current government is its vehement attempt, in the garb of humanitarianism, to upturn the Constitution of India by slyly trying to introduce religious right-to-return. The current government displays zero or very little humanitarian concern for non-Hindu marginalised communities in the country and in neighbouring countries.

Unlike Israel, Korea (both South and North), and few other countries, Indian law and the Constitution till today doesn’t recognise any notion of ‘Right to return’. This is the first time, when a sort of religious ‘right to return’ – is being advocated by the law-makers. To reiterate, this runs contrary to the secular fabric of the Constitution.

Further apart from complicating the already vulnerable demographic cauldron of the state of Assam, the circumstances under which the amendment is sought to be carried out raise questions about the federal structure of the country. The proposed amendment overrides the Assam Accord of 1985 which sets the date of 24 March 1971 as the cut off date for categorisation of illegal foreign immigrants to Assam, irrespective of Muslims or Hindus. In 1986 the Citizenship Act was amended and Article 6A was inserted. Retrospectively Article 6A granted citizenship to all those who entered Assam on or before 24 March 1971. How many amendment to Citizenship Act is required? Ain’t the amendments made after the Assam Accord of 1985 not enough?

We strongly demand that the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 be immediately withdrawn.

Join the Protest Demonstration Against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, at 2 pm, 29th September, Jantar Mantar

Statement against the Kaziranga Police Killings : Delhi Action Committee Against Kaziranga Police Killings

Guest Post by Delhi Action Committee Against Kaziranga Police Killings

 

Protest Demonstration

 Against  Kaziranga Police Killings

2pm, 23rd September, Assam Bhawan, Sardar Patel Marg,

 

After the BJP came to power in Assam in May 2016, the state government has unleashed a reign of terror to execute its fascistic agendas. Within 2 months into power, the government opened fire and killed a 25 year old man Mintu Deuri, during a protest organized in Raha against the transfer of the site for a proposed AIIMS in the state on 15th July 2016. Now on 19 September 2016, just 34 days after the Raha incident, the police has again opened fire and killed two people – Anjuma Khatun and Fakhruddin, at a demonstration led by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) at Banderdubi revenue village near the Kaziranga National Park. The protestors were demanding resettlement and adequate compensation against an eviction drive carried out by the mandate of the Gauhati High Court order dated 9 October 2015 which was supposed to happen two days later, i.e. on 21 September 2016 but had been preponed to avoid protests. The villagers, belonging mainly to the Muslim community of erstwhile East Bengal origin, have been residing in the village for more than half a century.

Continue reading “Statement against the Kaziranga Police Killings : Delhi Action Committee Against Kaziranga Police Killings”

Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa

The dominant narrative around the recent JNU incident has been that the unwarranted police action and the concerted acts of violence, incitement and misinformation that followed are all part of a determined push by the saffron brigade. After love jihad and beef, the story has it, it is “sedition” and “Pakistani agent” this time—we are living in a state of undeclared emergency. A sense of disbelief and apocalyptic doom seem to underpin these sentiments, along with a nostalgic optimism for a quick return to harmony and normalcy. But such things have happened far too many times, and far too often for us to harbour such illusions. For what we are going through is in effect a recalibration of that normalcy.

To read political slogans literally is an absurdity. But in the hands of the present government, it is a calculated absurdity that reads “Bharat ki barbadi…” as armed conspiracy against the state. The variables are many—arrests, fake tweets, rampaging lawyers, patriotic house-owners and now, open calls for murder. But the calculus resolves itself into the same formula every time: national/anti-national.

At the outset, the opposition to the attack on the university campus seems to have coalesced around two points—first, maintaining a safe distance from the “anti-India” slogans raised at the meeting; and second, showing themselves as the real nationalists, standing against the saffron thugs in patriot’s disguise. Partly in response to a vicious media campaign, videos of “real nationalist” speeches at the protest venue are being posted on social media everyday. We are told at length about the “real” Indian behind the deshdrohi, his credentials, and how he wants his India to be. Things reached a disturbing pitch when spokespersons of the traditional Left went on record to express their displeasure at the real culprits not being caught. Without doubt, the saffron brigade cannot be allowed the prerogative of deciding what “the nation” means. But why do so from the flimsy ramparts of sedition? Continue reading “Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa”

Updating of “National Register of Citizens” and Recent Political Developments in Assam: Abdul Kalam Azad

Guest post by ABDUL KALAM AZAD

On 21st July, 2010 one of my close family relatives, Mydul Mullah (25) was one among the thousands of marginalized Muslims of Barpeta district who were demonstrating in front of Deputy Commissioner’s office at district headquarter demanding an error-free fresh NRC (National Register of Citizens). Eventually, police brutally cracked down on the picketers and fired upon them for the ‘crime’ of exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest. After the police firing Mydul Mullah along with his three comrades Khandakar Matleb (20), Siraj Ali (27) and Majam Ali (55) succumbed to the bullet injuries. The Tarun Gogoi led Assam government was forced to suspend the faulty NRC pilot project due to unprecedented public outrage.

The question of ‘illegal migration’ from Bangladesh has been one of the most significant and emotive topics in the political milieu of Assam for almost half a century now. .

The six-year long movement (1979-1985) against illegal immigration, popularly known as the Assam Movement, spear headed by All Assam Students Union claimed itself to be a secular and nonviolent new social movement of ‘indigenous’ people to drive out the illegal immigrants. But analyses of scholars and social scientists like Prof. Hiren Gohain, Prof. Monirul Hussain, Dr. Debabrata Sarma, Diganta Sarma etc. reveal that as soon as the Assam movement accommodated right wing RSS workers into its leadership, the whole movement turned against Muslims of Bengali origin in Assam. Heinous massacres like that of Nellie, Chaolkhuwa, Nagabandha etc. were orchestrated against Muslims of Bengali origin and in broad day light thousands of people were killed. After six years of deadlock, the movement culminated in the signing of the ‘Assam Accord’ with the Government of India in 1985. The accord says that the immigrants, who came to Assam after 25th of March, 1971 will be detected and deported from Assam. One of the mandates of the accord was to update the 1951 National Register of Citizen to facilitate identification of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Assam.   Continue reading “Updating of “National Register of Citizens” and Recent Political Developments in Assam: Abdul Kalam Azad”

Isn’t ‘Illegal Bangladeshi’ Racist Shorthand for Bengali Speaking Muslims in Assam? Bonojit Hussain

Guest post by Bonojit Hussain

The fragile and unstable peace in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) of Assam has once again been ruptured. The recent massacre of Muslims of East Bengali descent in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts of BTAD on 1st and 2nd May has already taken toll on 46 lives; with many people still missing, the dead count might go up.

This is not the first time that targeted ethnic violence has occurred in what is today BTAD. Through out the 1990’s armed Bodo groups have indulged in pogroms against Nepalis, Adivasis and Muslims and Hindus of East Bengali descent. But since the creation of BTAD in 2003, increasingly only Muslims of East Bengali descent are being targeted. Worst among all was the so-called ‘riots’ of 2012 where 108 people died. According to sources in Assam government, 79 were Muslims of East Bengali descent, 22 were Bodos and 4 were from other communities.

A lot has been written about the underlying causes of these recurring targeted killings and we need not dwell upon that here. (for an overview see Sanjib Barua, “Assam: The Politics of ElectoralViolence”, Outlook Magazine, May 09, 2014). What should bother us all is how quickly discourse over the recurring massacres in BTAD is transformed into a debate on the question of illegal immigration from Bangladesh, wherein the victims are immediately labeled as ‘illegal Bangladeshis’. Even if the victims were ‘illegal Bangladeshis’, the barbaric act of killing 46 people in a span of 36 hours is a crime against humanity. Continue reading “Isn’t ‘Illegal Bangladeshi’ Racist Shorthand for Bengali Speaking Muslims in Assam? Bonojit Hussain”

Attitudes towards Menstruation – Notes from Assam: Priyanka Chakrabarty

This is a Guest Post by PRIYANKA CHAKRABARTY 

GOOD NEWS, GOOD NEWS…They are blessed with a child! Oh, what child, boy or girl? This is the most common response that new parents will encounter, one that indicates what people find most interesting about a new birth. We examine its genital parts and then say, it is a boy or girl. During this time, the difference between male and female is only the biological difference of sex,  of the presence of the penis or the vagina. Gradually the child is ‘socialised’ (read normalised) into a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’.

One of the key aspects of a girl’s socialization is her introduction to the bodily process of menstruation. Superficially, and as a purely biological process, menstruation is the discharge of blood from the vagina. This is widely considered to be the ‘development’ of the female body and after the start of menstruation, a girl is believed to have attained womanhood –attained puberty. Continue reading “Attitudes towards Menstruation – Notes from Assam: Priyanka Chakrabarty”