FACT-FINDING ON THE UPDATING OF THE NRC IN ASSAM
“Sab keh rahe hain Bangladeshi ko hatana chahiye. Koi ye nahi bole ki ‘koi bhi genuine Indian ka naam nahi hatna chahiye’’
Between the 5th and 10th of November 2019, a nine person team of members of Women against Sexual Violence and State repression visited the state of Assam in order to understand the implications of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC), particularly for the most marginalised people of Assam. The team travelled to the Barak Valley region, home to several Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims, to the Char and Chapori villages (the river islands and villages on the banks of the Brahmaputra), home to some of the most vulnerable groups of people – largely the landless Miyah Muslim peasants. The team also visited villages in the districts of Jorhat, Sivasagar and Hojai, home to those who fled erstwhile East Pakistan in 1964 and tea plantations on which migrant workers from Jharkhand and the Chhota Nagpur plateau toil. The team met with workers, peasants, activists, academics and members of civil society in all of these regions.
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) strongly condemns the manner in which our member Ms Bondita Acharya, a well known women’s activist from Jorhat, Assam, is being criminally intimidated, abused in sexual language, defamed and trolled on her Facebook account only because she expressed her personal opinion regarding eating of beef, a common practice in her state of Assam, and opposed targeting of Muslims for the same. She is being threatened with acid attack, rape and gang rape and issued death threats. It is clear that the persons making these threats are associated with hindutva organisations and the Bajrang Dal has even issued a press release demanding a public apology. We demand that the complaint she has lodged with the Superintendent of Police (CID) be immediately registered and strong action be taken against the perpetrators of threats. Since Ms Bondita Acharya is also the North East Coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert and a member of Women In Governance, the inactivity of the administration in this regard is even more serious.
The background of the incident is that 3 Muslim persons including a minor were arrested on the outskirts of Jorhat town on 7th April 2017 while returning home with half a kg of beef. It is claimed that they were cooking the same in a temporary hut at a construction site where they were working. The arrest has been made under The Assam Cattle Preservation Act of 1950, which does not criminalize possession or consumption of beef but only lays down the circumstances under which cattle may be permitted to be slaughtered. The FIR had been lodged by an active BJP supporter Mridu Pawan Bora. Many people were critical of this arrest on the social media since the consumption of beef is common in the North East and not confined to only the Muslim community. While participating in the conversation, Ms Bondita Acharya also commented that people even from higher castes of Hindus consumed beef. Upon this there was a systematic and targeted barrage of extremely vicious, sexually laden and defamatory posts on social media regarding Ms Bondita Acharya threatening her with rape, murder, acid attack, public beating etc. It is pertinent that the Muslim community is already a target in Assam on account of criminalizing Muslim refugees from Bangladesh even while an exercise to grant citizenship to Hindu refugees is going on. WSS expresses serious concern at the deliberate efforts to communalise society by the Hindutva organisations and the newly elected BJP government and the consequences this will have upon the freedom and security of women of all communities.
Sudha Bhardwaj, Kalpana Mehta, Bittu, Rinchin, Kalyani Menon, Nisha Biswas and Ranjana Padhi
On Behalf of WSS
Report of the Fact Finding Team on Sexual Assault in Dolopa, July 2012
On 13th July 2012, a Lance-Naik of the 287 Field Regiment of the Indian Army attempted to rape a 19 year old woman of the Mishing community in a forest close to the village of Dolopa in Assam. Even though the culprit was caught red-handed in the act, the Army refused to allow any criminal proceedings in ordinary courts to take place, while further traumatizing the victim and her mother by prolonged detention and interrogation.
This report by a fact finding team places this incident in the background of draconian laws like the AFSPA and the Army Act of 1950, describing how the immunity provided to security forces in an environment of institutionalized patriarchy further subverts the criminal justice system to the disadvantage of all civilians, particularly the women, indigenous community people and poorest of poor.
To download a pdf copy of the report, click on Dolopa_FactFinding_Report