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A HEARTRENDING ACCOUNT OF THE MOST HORRENDOUS

GENOCIDE OF OUR TIME

Neelie, 1983: Asom Andolonor Borborotom
Gonohatyar Postmortem Report
(Neelie, 1983: A Postmortem Report into the Most
Barbaric Massacre of Assam Movement)
Author: Diganta Sharma
Publisher: Eklabya Prakashan
Akhra Ghar, Molouali, Jorhat-785001,
Published on 30 October, 2007
Price: Rs. 55.00, Pages: 94
Language: Assamese.

Reviewed by Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

‘Rabia Begum was feeding breast to her 17 month daughter sitting in a stool in the
veranda of her road side house. Her other children were playing in the small
courtyard. Her husband Chandeh Ali was busy with some work in the back side of the
house. They did not even guess what was to come to them after a few minutes.

Suddenly the playing children rushed towards their mother in panic and grasped her.
Already there were hue and cry around their house. Hearing desperate cries of his
children when Chandeh Ali just entered the courtyard he saw a group of people
around with swords, daggers, knives, tridents and petrol. Attackers got divided into
three groups. One group chased running Chandeh Ali. Another group went to set fire
on the house. And the other group started striking their weapons on children in their
mother’s lap. In minutes they were transformed into a heap of human limbs. The
house was rendered into an ash-heap. And Chandeh Ali? A trident struck him from
behind.

This is not a scene of a horror movie. These are the words from a chapter in the
history of the independent secular socialist democratic republic of India which was
written in some unknown villages in Nellie in the then district of Nogaon in Assam on
Friday, 18 February, 1983, by workers of All Assam Students Union and All Assam
Gono Sangram Parishad, the chauvinist groups of Assamese people, with the blood of
more than 3000 Bengali speaking Muslims. Diganta Sharma depicted this and many
other horrific scenes in his ‘Nellie, 1983: A Postmortem Report into the Most
Barbaric Massacre of Assam Movement’, the book under review”.

“Read. And be afraid”. I read it and got afraid. Speaking frankly, I would not sleep in
three consecutive nights after going through the book. The scenes haunt me like my
oewn ghost. I am afraid, it will keep haunt me till I breath my last. I am terrified.
Shaken to the core. I got somewhat disenchanted about the greatest animal. About
human civilization. Indian civilization. When we show our such face as shown in
Nellie and if we call ourselves beasts, it will be an insult to the beasts. Civilization
gets sometimes wilder than the wildest. This is one of the situation where human
beings are at their worst. It reminds one of Auschwitz. Birkenau. And such other hells
in the earth. Nellie 1983 is one of the most horrendous genocide in the earth.

This book which can strike vigorously to the core of your concept of humanity was a
result of painstaking investigation and an example of meticulous objectivity and bold
journalism. The author Diganta Sharma, a young journalist with Guwahati based
Assamese weekly Sadin killed many a myths surrounding the massacre.

He stripped off those who have kept exerting all of their energies to prove that the
carnage was a handiwork of tribal groups such as Tiwa and Lalung and the Assamese
had nothing to do with it. It was a severe slap on the faces of those who have been
trying to get political mileage over each other making Assam a killing ground. The
government claimed AASU and its allies are responsible for the blood bath. The
president of AASU Nurul Hussain, as he was then, declared soon after the massacre
that the violence was created by government agent.” Mr. Hiteshwar Saikia, then chief
minister of Assam claimed that workers of AASU and Gono Sangaram Parishad
were directly involved in violence occurred in the state. Sharma reproduced a news
item published in 17 April 1983 issue of Janakranti, which reads ‘detailed orders were
given in papers bearing names of some regional branches of the students union to
attack different minority inhabited areas, the Chief Minister stated in a press meet in
last Sunday.’

On the other hand, Sharma has shown how police machinery was involved in
facilitating the killers to carry out the program. He reproduced a message sent by
Jahiruddin Ahmed, the officer-in charge of Nogaon Police Station to the Commandant
of 5th Assam Police Battalion in Morigaon, Officer-in charge of Jagi Road Police
Station and Sub-Divisional Police Officer on 15 February, 1983 the contents of which
are:

INFORMATION RECEIVED THAT L/NIGHT ABOUT ONE THOUSAND ASSAMESE
OF SURROUNDING VILLAGES OF NELLIE WITH DEADLY WEAPONS ASSEMBLED AT
NELLIE BY BEATING OF DRUMS (,) MINORITY PEOPLES ARE IN PANIC AND
APPREHENDING ATTACK AT ANY MOMENT (,) SUBMISSION FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
TO MAINTAIN PEACE (,)

The police did nothing towards maintaining peace. Rather “the police acted in favour
of facilitating the carnage and enjoyed it”, Sharma adds. He quoted a few lines from
the National Police Commission’s Sixth Report Dealing With Recent Communal
Riots and Role of the Police which reads “…….The National Police Commission has
found that there is a tendency among the police officers to shun responsibility for
dealing with communal situations.
“They either avoid to go to the troubled spot or when they happen to be present
there, they try not to resort to the use of force when the situation so demands or better
still slip away from the scene leaving the force leaderless…”

There is also a chapter in the book which investigates exclusively into the government
created myth that no eye witness could identify the attackers. The book unearths the
existence of a charge sheet which charges 13 attackers under sections 147, 146, 326,
379, 436, 302 and 307 of the Indian Panel Code. The charge sheet was prepared on
the basis of an FIR bearing Jagi Road Police Station Case No. 86/83 filed by one Nur
Jamal Bhuiyan. Sharma Claims “Bhuiyan could identify the faces of 13 people who
live in the vicinity of his village. He had seen them either in the market or in the field.
These 13 people were among those who burnt down Bhuiyan’s house and killed 12
members of his family.”

A total of 688 cases were filed in Jagi Road Police Station in connection with the
Nellie massacre from which 318 cases were closed after a final report stating that
there was no evidence against the accused and charge sheet were filed in remaining
310 cases. However, the fate of the cases in which charge sheets were filed is not
better. All cases were dropped when the Asom Gana Parishad, the political wing of
the AASU came to power swimming over the flood of the blood of more than 3000
people of 14 villages in Neelie including Alichinga, Kholapothar, Bosundhari,
Dugduba Bil, Borjula, Butoni Indurmari, Mati Parvat, Muladhari, Shielbheta,
Borburi etc., other hundreds in other places of the state and 500 of its own workers.
Thus in the book of Diganta Sarma the people who played gory games with the lives
and sentiments of the people by promoting a myth of Assamese nationalism and
transforming it into a blood thirsty chauvinism by presenting a bogey of foreigners
assaulting on the culture, identity and livelihood of Assamese got unmarked and
naked.

This so called Assamese nationalist movement was in its peak in the last part of
seventies when Member of Parliament from Mongaldoi constituency Hiralal Patowari
died. The election commission started the renewal of electoral roll in order to hold
fresh election in the constituency. The exercise went on to the month of May, 1979
when allegation was hurled that many names of the doubtful citizens were also being
included in the electoral roll. After examination of the specific allegations the
Election Commission found some of them are to be true. AASU started to propagate
that Mangaldoi proved that millions of Bangladeshis had been included in the
electoral rolls of all the constituencies of Assam. They started a movement demanding
expulsion of the so-called Bangladeshi people which in reality targeted those who
speak Bengali and practise Islam. On 27 August in 1979 they formed an outfit named
All Assam Gono Sangram Parishad in order to expel those whom they think are
Bangladeshis.

The Election Commission declared the general election to be held in two phases in
Assam on 14 and 17 February, 1983. This decision was challenged in the Supreme
Court of India by a petition which was dismissed on 1 February, 1983. ASSU and its
allies called for boycott of the election. They threatened the people who would cast
their votes with dire consequences and prepared detailed maps of the areas where
people belonging to religious and linguistic minority communities live. On the other
hand, workers of the Congress (I) conducted a campaign in minority areas saying that
if they did not cast their votes they would be proved foreigners and would be
expelled.

In these circumstances “the nationalist groups got information that on 14 February
many Bangladeshi people had cast votes in Nogaon (now Morigaon) district. Instantly
a plan of attack was made in the villages where Assamese people live surrounding
Neelie by the initiative of agitating peoples. Strategies were formed as to how, when
and where attacks would be made on the “illegal Bangladeshis”. The date was fixed
on 18 February. Agenda was genocide to save the existence of mother Assam. Place
of carrying out the plan was Nellie”.

The result was genocide of the worst kind in the history where more than 3000 people
died and 14 villages were burnt and smashed into smithereens in a mere 6/7 hours
span of time. After the massacre the victims who survived were so traumatized that
they could not think of getting justice, rehabilitation and compensation. No ex-gratia
was paid to any body in connection with the massacre. All cases of 688 were dropped.
A commission of inquiry was formed known as TD Tiwari commission to enquire
into the massacre, the report of which was never made public.

The victims of Neelie are getting awake and thinking to seek justice. They ask now
“why the nationalists could not prove us Bangadeshi within the period of 25 years
since the massacre which was carried out to free Assam from forigners. Even if they
can now prove it we will leave this country on our own”.

Diganta Sharma was able to
make the genocide to haunt its
perpetrators once again.
Victims and some other groups
are contemplating to go to the
Supreme Court and use the
book as a piece of evidence. Dr.
Debabrata Sharma, on behalf of
Ekalabya, the publisher of the
book in the introduction
compared the Assamese
chauvinist mind-set with that of
Lady Macbeth when she says
“A little water clears us of this
deed” before the publication of
the book. Now, after the
publication they wonder “All
the perfumes of Arabia will not
sweeten these little hands” like
Lady Macbeth.

After 24 hours of ceaseless violence, Neelie was .
a graveyard where the smell of death was over ‘Neelie, 1983’ cries for actions
pouring to wash the hands. It needs
justice. Nothing short of justice
would do. Read it. Be ashamed. Be afraid. It was one of our great shames which came
first of many such. Delhi, 1984. Mumbai, Gujarat. What is in stock for the next days
who knows? So read it. Be haunted. And take actions. Take actions to get justice for
the victims.

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