Nellie 1983: Crime but no punishment

By Anjuman Ara Begum and Diganta Sharma for

Part 5: Nellie 1983

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What constitutes decent compensation for the victims of Nellie massacre?

After the massacre situation became extremely complex, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came to visit Nellie and Gohpur. She reviewed relief and rehabilitation operations and inspected different camps. The rehabilitation package announced by the government of Assam consisted of the following. (‘25 years on…Nellie still haunts’ by Hemendra Narayan)

• Rs. 5000/ cash grant to each of the bereaved families for every person killed.
• Rs 5000/ grant towards reconstruction of houses destroyed in the recent disturbances.
• Maintenance of relief assistance on the same scale as in the relief camps up to period of three months after return to respective villages till the harvesting of the next crop.
• Distribution of free seeds at the rate of 10 kgs per bigha subject to a maximum of 20 kgs for two bighas for every agriculturist family for sowing summer paddy.
• Assistance to replace lost bullocks at the rate of two bullocks per family subject to a maximum of Rs. 1,500.
• Subsidy of Rs. 500 per family for lost milch cattle.
• For small traders and businessmen, it has been decided to give business loan of Rs.2500/ per family together with a loan subject to a maximum of Rs. 1000/ in an urban area and Rs. 200 in rural areas for the repair and reconstruction of shops damaged in the disturbances and for maintenance relief for a period of one month.

It is noteworthy that massacre was carried out against the Sikhs soon after the murder of Indira Gandhi in 1984, a year after Nellie massacre. The victims of this massacre were given Rs. 35 thousand as compensation for every death, while victims of Nellie massacre were given only Rs. 5 thousand. A Nellie victim lamented over this unequal treatment and expressed his anguish saying that ‘our life is equal to the cost of 1 kg of fish in the market.’

Later on those killed during Assam agitation were declared as ‘shaheed’ by the government of Assam. Next kin of each dead was given Rs. 35 thousand as honour to the departed soul. Names of the Nellie massacre were simply not included in that list.

Nuruzaman who filed FIR of the massacre

Cases on Nellie massacre dropped

Nuruzaman Bhuyan is about 75 years old now. He cannot move properly but still he is waiting for justice. On the fateful day, about 13 persons whom he knew very well attacked his house and killed 12 of his family members and property worth Rs. 36,200/ were lost. He himself was injured. With agony in mind he helped fellow villagers to overcome the trauma. Within two days of the massacre he filed FIR to the Jagiroad police station (FIR no 86/1983, GR number 231/1983). 13 people belonging to Tiwa community who were his friends, neighbours and with whom he worked together in fields, markets were named as the accused in the FIR. He named 13 accused in the FIR. They were Bidhu Roy, Bharat Hazarika, Uma Kakaty, Bakul kakoty, Horeshwar Rabha, Rajaram Rabha, Bodana das, Loknath Das, Bogiram Das, Nogen Das, Bimol Deka, Bhumi Senapati, Prafulla Master,and others. They were charged under section 147/148/326/379/436/302/307 of Indian penal Code. This case was investigated and accused were charge sheeted. Charge sheet number 70 was submitted in 1985. Nuruzaman, however, did not get justice. The case was never called for hearing in the court of justice. It was dropped. Some of those charge sheeted already died by now.

688 cases were filed before the Jagiraoad police station of which 310 were charge sheeted. No investigation was carried out for the remaining 378 cases. Later on investigation and legal proceedings were dropped against all the cases.

Justice denied for Nellie victims

Inquiry Commission headed by Tribhubhan Prasad Tiwari was constituted under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1952 vide notification No. PLA /658/8319, dated July 14, 1983. The Commission was assigned to enquire the disturbances in the state of Assam during January to April 1983. The Commission was expected to submit its report within six months. Later on the tenure of the commission was extended till January 16 1984. The commission submitted its report to the government and the report is neither tabled before the State Assembly as per the provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1952 nor made public till date. In an interview with journalist Hamendra Narayan, T P Tiwari who was later appointed as the Governor of Pondichery, said that the report is a secret. The report has 547 pages and only three copies were made and are with the Union Home Ministry, Assam Government and Sri Tiwari’s personal copy. There is little hope on the report being made public in recent future.

Another non-official Judicial Commission headed by Justice Mehta (retired chief justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court) was formed by the Assam Rajyik Freedom Fighters Association to enquire into the incidents that occurred from January 1, 1983 to April 30, 1983. The report was released on January 26, 1985. Mehta Commission reports says before the carnage there was cordial relationship among the people in and around Nellie. The main reason of discord was the election. The commission conducted 36 sittings in the village from May 14, 1983 onwards and examined 600 witnesses. Since it was a non-judicial enquiry, no action was taken on it.