Martyred or Murdered? A cry for justice for the martyrs of CAA
Guwahati: December 11, 2020 marks the first anniversary of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. Although the legislation of the Act remains ineffective, protests across Assam have started resurfacing a year later. However, there are many who remember the day for losing their loved ones.
Abdul Amin, a resident of Salbari in Assam’s Baksa district, was trying everything possible to contribute to his family. The 23-year-old moved away from home soon after completing his higher secondary and started working in Guwahati.
After the situation intensified on December 12, following state-wide protests against the CAA, Amin decided to join the protest. He had spoken his cousin 15 minutes before being shot. He was hit in the head and was rushed to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospitals (GMCH) in Guwahati’s Bhangagarh area.
“After talking with him for about 15 mins, I told him to go back to his room. Later in the evening, I saw on the news that Abdul Amin had died during police firing. Panic struck our house. The next day we went to the GMCH Bhangagarh. He could have been breathing then, but when his photographs were shown, we realized that he must have died on the spot. He had lost a lot of blood after the bullet hit his head. He was kept there for the next three days until Dec 15. Then, with the help of AASU, we brought him here and buried him,” Rashidul Haque, Amin’s cousin told EastMojo.
Amin's dream of providing a better house for his parents also died that day.
The same evening, 17-year-old Sam Stafford, a resident of Guwahati’s Hatigaon area, got out of his home to join the anti-CAA protests called by the artists' community of Assam. He was shot on his way back from Latashil ground.
Stafford’s untimely death severely affected his mother and her mental health.
“On May 5, we had to rush her to the hospital, where they found a blood clot on the right side of her brain. Now her mental health condition isn't very good and it is only because of the government,” said Md Sadek Ali, Sam’s brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, Sam’s sister Mousumi Stafford says that she has lost her hope that her brother will ever get justice but her faith in the people of Assam and the new formed regional parties is still intact.
“I don't think there would be any more development in the case. Despite all that, I put my trust in the people of Assam and the new regional parties to ensure justice for us. The representatives of the government will only understand our loss when they lose one of their own. I would only request them, since they have already killed him, that at least now we deserve justice,” Stafford’s sister told EastMojo.
December 12, 2019 was also a fateful day for Dipanjal Das and his family. The struggles of his family, however, continue a year after his death. A clerical error on behalf of authorities while filling up details of the deceased has led the family to being deprived of getting hold of his post-mortem report and the death certificate.
“We were first told to go to GMCH in Bhanagagarh. We were then told to speak to the officer-in-charge (OC) of Paltanbazar Police Station. We were then told that the OC has been transferred and that we should visit his house at Sonapur if we needed to meet him. It is almost a year now and we still don't have any documents. We haven't got the death certificate either. Whenever we went to ask for it, we are told to return another day, said Sangeeta Das, Dipanjal’s sister.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019 and by the Rajya Sabha on December 11, 2019. Soon after, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Assam to raise their opposition to the Act.
By the end of the day on December 11, Assam had turned into a battleground. There were, however, more victims of the police action on protestors than Dipanjal Das, Abdul Amin and Sam Stafford.
Ishwar Nayak and Azizur Rahman lost their lives during the anti-CAA protests. However, weeks after the incident, the Assam government declared their deaths a result of "attacks by miscreants".
Nayak and Rahman were not killed in police firing, the government had said. In the absence of an inquiry committee till date, this has raised questions about the government's intentions.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) demanded that the government should set up a high-level inquiry committee under the supervision of represent judges of the Gauhati High Court.
“Five is not just a number. These are lives that were lost. It is an intolerable and inexcusable crime on part of the governments of India and Assam. Till date, the government of Assam has not announced an inquiry on this incident. We’d like to challenge the government to declare a high-level judicial enquiry under the leadership of the representative judges of the Guwahati High Court,” Samujjal Bhattacharya, advisor to the All Assam Students’ Union, told EastMojo.
"The culprits who had fired the shots must be booked. They must be booked because no government has the right to take lives," Bhattacharya added.
Meanwhile, senior advocate and social activist Upamanyu Hazarika says the role of police in general, and of Gyanendra Pratap Singh, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law & Order) in particular, was only to please the leaders.
“This whole thing happened on the first day of G.P. Singh taking charge of law and order. This one officer is responsible for the secret killing of ex-ULFA members during the regime of Prafulla Mahanta in 1996-2001. He was brought in because the government wanted to control the whole thing by force and by killing innocent people," Hazarika told EastMojo.
Hazarika feels the top cop was "in a hurry to satisfy his masters". "He killed five people to tell the leadership that they have contained the protests,” Hazarika added.
The intensity of protests suffered a setback with the outbreak of COVID-19. However, reports of protests from various corners of Assam have already started coming in.
Members of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) staged a demonstration at the Chachal protest ground on December 10, which was attended by several supporters and the students wing of the farmers organisation. Protests were also held by organisations like Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) on December 11.
Meanwhile, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) is all set to begin its resistance in the form of ‘gana hunkar’ from December 12 in all the districts of the State.