Report exposes ‘roots of atrocities’ against Muslims in Assam

Report by Indo-American group IAMC shows repeated episodes of mass violence since 1993 were planned and politically motivated, urges action to prevent ethnic cleansing.

By Staff Reporter,

Support TwoCircles

Guwahati: The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group based in the United States, has released a report that exposes the roots of the mass violence in Assam in 2012 and 2014, in which hundreds of lives have been lost and over a half million people were displaced.

TCN File Photo of a relief Camp in Kokrajhar in Bodoland after the 2012 ethnic riot.

The report titled “Rationalizing Ethnic Cleansing in Assam,” is based on data provided by human rights activists in Assam, media reports, eyewitness accounts as well as testimonies of scores of victims, many of which have been recorded.

The report documents the state complicity behind sustained violence against an ethnic and religious minority. The report also exposes the myth about Assamese Muslims being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, a canard that is all too often used to “contextualize,” the barbaric ethnic cleansing of impoverished Muslim villagers.

“The political patronage provided to armed militant groups that have spearheaded massacres at regular intervals since 1993, and the hateful rhetoric of xenophobic Hindutva groups, is at the root of the campaign to bring about demographic changes in Assam through violence and intimidation,” said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC.

“The gravity of the situation in Assam can be gauged from the fact that the state has failed to provide adequate relief or create an atmosphere conducive to the return of the thousands who were displaced from their homes during the mass violence,” added Mr. Khan.

The report includes wide-ranging recommendations to bring about reconciliation between Muslims and ethnic Bodos. An important step in this direction would be a Special Investigative Team (SIT) constituted by the Supreme Court to assess proper investigation of the crimes committed, and a prosecution of the perpetrators, including their political patrons.

TCN File photo of a local market in Nawgaon in Assam.

A lasting solution to the crisis can only be possible if Constitutional guarantees of life and liberty are ensured, and members of all communities have equal access to economic opportunities and political power. In addition, the internally displaced should be assisted in returning to their homes to avoid repeat of this occurrence.

Long term stability and development of the region will remain a distant dream unless government takes serious action to prevent social discord. The fact that even the groups that have surrendered have been allowed to retain arms is a critical impediment in the political process towards a lasting solution.

Indian-American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos of Indian Muslims in the United States with 15 chapters across the nation,

Executive Summary of the Report: Rationalizing Ethnic Cleansing in Assam

The Indian State of Assam has witnessed mass violence against minorities, particularly Muslims several times in the last few decades. The area known as Bodo Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD), as well as surrounding areas in western Assam is inhabited by Muslims as well as Bodo tribals. Ethnic rivalry between these two communities has been the primary cause of mass violence against the Muslim citizens of Assam, resulting in hundreds of deaths and the displacement of over half a million inhabitants of the state.

Women often have to suffer the most. When 2012 Bodo-Muslim ethnic violence broke villagers walked for safer places, sometimes over 20 km or more (TCN File Photo)

The right to life and security, a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, has been denied to countless people of Assam, due to the failure of the state polity and law enforcement to protect the Muslim citizens of the state. In many instances, the complicity of the Relief measures have been remarkably insufficient to deal with the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis, and devoid of the need to protect the dignity of the victims.

This report covers the wider context behind the violence in Assam and the motives behind the persecution of the state’s Muslim population. It also explores the mechanisms of such persecution, including the false characterization of Muslims in western Assam as “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. Such mischaracterization has been disseminated systematically in order to whip up sectarian tensions, often times with the complicity of sections the media.

The relief camps setup to shelter the survivors have been rocked by human trafficking, sexual exploitation of young children and women, and elderly abuse. These crimes against the hapless victims continue with impunity with virtually no consequences for the perpetrators.

Appropriate judicial intervention is urgently needed to investigate the mass violence, and crimes against humanity committed against Assam’s Muslim population. The state must provide adequate relief measures for the hundreds of thousands who have lost their property and livelihood.

The state must also ensure that all citizens, regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation, have equal access to opportunities and political power. There cannot be any democratic or constitutional basis for the reservation of 75% of seats in a legislature of a specially administered region for a particular group which barely constitutes 33% of the population. Allowing various militant groups to bear arms even after they have surrendered has exacerbated the problem in the absence of an effective strategy for counterinsurgency.

To read the full report click here.