Raging protests against Army Atrocities in Assam

Tinsukia district of Assam is reeling under army terror. Violating all democratic norms and laws of the land, army rule has been clamped down in Assam and army operations – indiscriminate arrests and killings – are going on, particularly in the Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh. Thousands of people came out on to the street to protest against state terror. The situation was sparked off by incident of killing of one Ajit Mahanta, father of two children, in army custody, who was arrested from his village by the 1/3 Gorkha Rifles on 4 th February. Branding Ajit Mahanta as an active ULFA link-man, army officials said that Ajit sustained fatal internal injuries in a fall while trying to escape.

After hearing of Ajit's killing, people gathered at National High Way (NHW) 52, and his body was cremated near the NHW itself on 6 th Feb as protests continued. Agitating people have been blocking the NHW since, which is the link road to Arunachal Pradesh. On 9 Feb, tilani – an Assamese ritual on the third day after a person's death – was performed, where nearly 10,000 people gathered at Hunjan Tiniali, near Kakopathar and the situation had become tense.

Nobody from the Government or Army dared to face the people who were holding continuous protests. On 10 February, at around 1 p.m. , thousands of people started to march towards Kakopathar Police Station and armed police opened fire upon the procession. Just after the incident, curfew was clamped in the area, and army operations continued. The Army not only opened fired on the protesters; they killed one Wahida Ahmed inside her house, Golap Bailung was also killed in his campus. Anindita, Kunjalata, and Beauty were gunned down, and the toll has risen up to ten. Among those severely injured include a 15-year-old girl, Monik Moran, who has been paralysed due to a spinal injury and is currently battling for her life in AIIMS in Delhi . Apart from killing in Kakopathat, police opened fire on mass protesters at Makum on 10 February.

The day after the incident, the Eastern Command Chief of the Army visited Kakopathar and declared – “This was a very unfortunate thing to happen. I am shocked. We have already constituted a court of inquiry and will get the report very soon...We know we have done wrong.”

Similarly, on 13 February, the Chief Secretary of the State, in a press conference held at Tinsukia, said that by killing Ajit Mahanta, the Army had violated the rules of Unified Command.

The Chief Minister waited for reports from four junior ministers and visited Kakopathar only on 17 Feb, a whole week after the killing. On 11 February, the day after the firing, he was busy with Sonia Gandhi, who visited Barpeta, Guwahati and Tezpur. On that very day of CM's visit, people held a protest procession peacefully, but police did not spare even journalists. As the procession marched towards the Inspection Bungalow, police blocked them at Kakopathar Tiniali and started to disperse them and Robin Dhekial Phukan, a local correspondent of an Assamese Daily, was brutally tortured and many others were detained at the Police Station. The Chief Minister had to face similar protest at the Assam Medical College Hospital when he entered the hospital to meet injured persons.

The ruling Congress is trying to diffuse the people's anger, on the one hand, by inventing the hidden hand of a ‘third force' behind this incident, and on the other hand, offering compensation to the victims' families, but these efforts have no effect.

Protests all over the state are ongoing. An Assam bandh was called by ULFA on 13, and by AASU on 14 February. Both the bandhs were spontaneous.

CPI(ML) staged protest programmes in different towns including Tinsukia, Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Jorhat. On 12 February, a protest march was organized at Tinsukia, where an effigy of the Chief Minister was burnt. Another protest was held at Jorhat, where an effigy of the Chief Minister was burnt. Protests were held at Dibrugarh Town on 21 and at Guwahati on 22 February. On 22 February, another protest march from Durgabari to the DC office was held at Tinsukia and a memorandum was sent to the President of India. The memorandum addressed to the President of India demanded:

•  A high-level enquiry into the incidents of killing and torture and punishment to the guilty Army and police personnel;

•  Withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Assam as well as other Northeastern states;

•  Army to be sent back to its barracks immediately; and

•  Dismissal of Tarun Gogoi Government, which is responsible for these killings.

A delegation of CPI(ML), Janasanskritik Parishad, AICCTU and AIPWA visited Kakopathar and met the family members of Ajit Mahanta, Mardhurya Gohain, Beauty Gohain, and Wahida Rahman. The delegation included Subhas Sen, Harendra Nath Barthakur, Gagan Sonowal (founder working president of Janasanskritik Parishad), and AIPWA activists Nizara Das and Bhagya Rekha Neog. The enquiry team which visited the spot noted that this area has been a site of Army repression for long. In 2003, the Army took away three youths from Pengari; two of them, Robin Moran and Maneswar, were killed and the latter's body was not returned. Unified Command has meant virtual Army rule, and thanks to the AFSPA license to kill, no culprit has yet been punished for these atrocities.

This killer Government must go. People of the state will surely give a befitting reply to it in the ensuing Assembly elections.

– Naren Borah

Atrocity on Kol Women in Mirzapur

On December 27th, 2005 , two women agrarian labourers belonging to the Kol tribe in Mirzapur district of Eastern UP stopped to rest in a field while returning from the day's hard work. Feeling hungry, they plucked two chana (gram) plants to eat. To punish them for this 'crime', the landlord beat them up mercilessly and paraded them naked. The police and administration refused to even file an FIR. It was only after prolonged and militant protests were launched by the Khet Mazdoor Sabha and CPI(ML), mainly by landless agrarian labourers, a majority of whom were women, that an FIR was finally lodged. Following the FIR no action was taken till the thana was gheraoed and a masive public meeting was held to protest against the criminal-police-administration-feudal nexus of the region. While the culprit is absconding, an order to seize his property has been issued. (kurki jabti).

The entire state has become a witness to the increasing atrocities by the mafia-landlord-police nexus, which the current regime of Mulayam Singh is patronising and protecting. Women are also organising themselves to fight inhuman working conditions in the agrarian sector, joblessness, meagre wages and brutal violence and humiliation meted out to them by landlords and their goons on a daily basis.

One very recent instance of growing awareness and assertion of organised women could be seen in Sitapur where women in large numbers destroyed a liquor theka (shop). This liquor store was located right near the tehsil office and opposite a women's college, in flagrant violation of one the basic rules of not permitting such stores to be located in such localities in town. It was the hub of molesters and eve-teasers and women had been demanding for a long time to shut it down. The Mulayam regime is well known for patronising liquor mafia all over the state. Naturally, state apathy was the most predictable response to this demand being made by women. It was on February 10, 2006 that women got together in large numbers under the banner of AIPWA and marched up to the store and smashed it. They also warned the administration that if other thekas were not shut down in the district they will be forced to take up this task themselves.

•  Shubhra

Dalit Girl's Arm Severed in Auria

Anju, a dalit girl of Auriya District in Uttar Pradesh, had her right arm severed by criminals near Achalda Station just because she dared to protest against constant harassment and eve teasing by a group of boys. The main culprit, Viresh Singh, son of Mansingh and his friends had been constantly stalking Anju and passing lewd remarks and trying to molest her. Earlier, on two occasions she had somehow managed to escape. But this time, when she was going to buy vegetables along with her younger sister, she was accosted by Viresh and two others. Anju raised an alarm and fought to release herself but the 3 proved to be too strong a group. Anju's sister ran to tell her parents but in the meantime the culprits had overpowered Anju and had chopped off her right arm right above the elbow with a sharp edged weapon used by butchers to cut animals. When Anju's parents came they found her unconscious and bleeding profusely, but could not find her severed arm. They approached the Achalda police station but their report was not lodged and the police inspector reprimanded them saying this was a case of rail accident which was being deliberately being made out to be a case of attack by youth. When the D.C. was finally approached, he too did not get the case registered, rather sent the girl to Kanpur for treatment. (Auriya is adjoining to Kanpur ). But again nothing was done and the girl did not even get proper medical aid. AIPWA, along with the Dalit Panthers protested against the inaction and demanded arrest of the culprits at the Ramashray Park in Kanpur . Later, other organizations and political parties also began to protest. It was only then that the DIG ordered the C.O. of Achalda P.S. to lodge an FIR, which was finally lodged on the 5 th day of the incident. While Anju was in Hospital in Kanpur , her father and uncle were kidnapped from the hospital premises by the culprits with the help of the police and threatened to withdraw the case or face dire consequences. While the uncle managed to escape, the father's whereabouts is still not known. None of those named in the FIR have been arrested yet. AIPWA has demanded that the culprits be traced immediately and remanded to judicial custody as well Anju's father be rescued and provided security.

– Vidya Rajwar