The arrests of two public representatives in Dholpur has come within four days of the police opening fire at villagers on September 23 who had ‘ended a meeting with the district officials’ and ‘were moving back to their homes.’ The eviction and killing of two persons have been followed by a public outcry on social media.
Mahibul Hoque | TwoCircles.net
SIPAJHAR – Days after the killing of two persons in police firing in Dholpur, Assam during an eviction drive launched by the district administration to oust Bengali origin Muslims from the area, two locals have been arrested by the police. The arrested duo are public representatives. One is an incumbent and another is a former gram panchayat president.
The arrests came within four days of the police opening fire at villagers on September 23 who had ‘ended a meeting with the district officials’ and ‘were moving back to their homes’, villagers from the area said.
The families of the duo condemned the arrest and said the duo have been ‘falsely implicated.’
On the afternoon of September 26, when Chand Mohammad, the president of Sanoa Panchayat along with former Bazana Pathar panchayat president Asmat Ali, went to meet the Officer-in-Charge of Sipajhar police station, they were arrested on the charges of criminal conspiracy and rioting. The duo had been called into the police station before they were formally booked.
The duo have been booked under various sections of the Indian Panel Code (IPC) for criminal conspiracy, rioting, unlawful assembly as well as causing harm under case no 758/21 at Sipajhar police station. The IPC sections invoked are 120B, 143, 147, 148, 149, 341, 333, 353, 325, 326 and 307.
The arrested persons, the families told TwoCircles.net, were trying to negotiate a peaceful removal of Muslim farmers from the government land where they have been living for more than five decades. “They are both public representatives and also negotiators from the government’s side. They have been arrested for their work for the people,” 70-year-old Amser Ali, father of former Bazana Pathar panchayat president Asmat Ali said.
His wife, Anuwara Khatun was inconsolable saying that her husband went out in the morning to bring relief material for eviction victims. “He was going to go to Guwahati, but as he was honest to trust the police, he is now under arrest,” she said.
On the day of the firing, Asmat was seen with police when a negotiation meeting was organized between the local organizations, individuals, public representatives from gram panchayats.
As per his family, Asmat was used the police loudspeaker to urge people to maintain peace and disperse.
Following this, both Asmat and Mahmud went home and “within 15 minutes there was police firing,” the wives of the duo said.
“As representatives of people, they were putting forth both sides’ views to each other. My husband was asking people to believe in the government’s verbal assurance of settlement land for the eviction from the government’s side and was asking the government to provide the settlement land for the affected people from the people’s side,” said Mahmud’s wife Nur Jahan Khatun, who had accompanied him to the “meeting”.
Both the families of the arrested persons alleged that they were victims of “politics”.
Asmat, a go-to person for information and help to navigate the large stretch of land, has been at the forefront of the negotiation process and was negotiating with Darrang Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma to “get a win-win negotiation”.
On asking about the negotiations between SP Sarma and Asmat and how he was implicated in the case, Sarma said, “The people almost dispersed after the meeting. Our JCBs moved in to do our work. Then suddenly things changed and I do not know what happened which prompted our actions. This sudden change of people’s mood indicated that they were instigated.”
“As investigations are going on, everything will be revealed in time. Our intention was never to open fire,” SP Sarma told TwoCircles.net.
A local from the area said Asmat was helping using his own money to get people to complete the National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process. “He was always working for the people’s right and thought that no harm is brought to the people of the area as is evident here. His arrest is all about erasing the voice of the people,” said a person whose house was also demolished at Dholpur No 3 village.
Another person Nazmul Sarkar from the same village said, “They have been falsely implicated to silence the Muslim voice from the area.”
The SP said the case will be handed over to the CID by September 28 or the day after that. Earlier on September 25, Chief Minister Sarma said the government had identified six persons who mobilized the people and that subsequently led to the violence. Among them is a lecturer of a college from the district and members of the Popular Front of India (PFI). However, according to a report PFI rejected the claim of its involvement.
The eviction at Dholpur was carried out in line with the Assam government’s plan to start an agricultural and allied activities farm in the area, where according to the government the Muslim farmers had encroached upon “illegally”. However, the Bengali origin Muslims settlers at the place are victims of river erosions, multiple times in their lives.
The land is flood-prone and remains submerged for nearly six months every year, which makes the land hard to cultivate and do allied activities.