Delhi Action Committee activists protest in front of Assam Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Sept. 23: A protest here today condemned the Assam government for allegedly targeting Muslims in an eviction drive at Kaziranga National Park on Monday, where two persons died.
Activists of several Left and liberal groups - under the banner of Delhi Action Committee against Kaziranga Killings - violated prohibitory orders to raise slogans outside Assam Bhawan, despite heavy police and paramilitary deployment.
"The evicted families were ready to move out with compensation or rehabilitation. Yet, these two villages were specifically targeted as only seven of the 193 families are Hindu. These families were informed in advance. Through a campaign of misinformation, the BJP is pitting one community against another," said Bonojit Hussain of the New Socialist Initiative, who led the 40-odd protesters.
Hussain later submitted a memorandum to Assam officials demanding action against those who approved firing against unarmed protesters, compensation and rehabilitation, an apology from chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and a guarantee for protecting lives and human rights irrespective of community.
Former IAS officer Harsh Mander, who also joined the demonstration, alleged that the killings exposed a communal agenda.
"What happened is clearly part of a larger national agenda. Muslims are being threatened, marginalised and demonised. The Assam government is clearly targeting Muslims in different ways, by saying Bangladeshis are enemies of rhinos," he told The Telegraph. "This was part of the BJP's 2014 campaign."
The CPM-backed All India Kisan Sabha joined the protest. "In the name of animals, you are killing humans. If you are a Muslim, can you simply be killed? Hundreds of acres can be given to Patanjali but instead of giving five cents of land to the villagers, they are killed," AIKS treasurer P. Krishnaprasad told the protesters. "The peasant movement will give a reply to the government for each drop of blood shed in Kaziranga. There will be protests everywhere. On the fire of fury the fascists will be wiped out. The Prime Minister and chief minister should know that power is temporary," he said.
The turnout was lower than normal for an Assam-related protest and the police outnumbered protesters. Although none were detained, Hussain said unlike today, protests outside Assam Bhawan were never stopped earlier, despite prohibitory orders in the diplomatic enclave where it is located.
"Yesterday, after we gave our mobile numbers to Assam officials, we immediately received calls from the police and the intelligence bureau asking us not to protest. This has not happened before. The resident commissioner was not there to even receive our memorandum," he said.
Nayan Jyoti of the Krantikari Naujawan Sabha, who mobilised supporters for the protest, said KMSS members are constantly being targeted after the incident.
He said, "The environment agenda is being used as a cover to target Muslims. It is also hypocritical of the government to use the old rhetoric of Bangladeshis when BJP MLA Mrinal Saikia's (who filed a PIL against the alleged encroachment) brother owns a luxury resort in Kaziranga and Himanta Biswa Sarma (finance minister) has a tea garden in the wildlife corridor."