Assam: No shrine but prayer for peace
Imam Mohd Taizuddin ensured that the Friday prayers went on at the masjid which was demolished during the first round of eviction on Monday to remove encroachers in the minority-dominated settlement in Assam’s Darrang.
In the sweltering heat, the prayers were held in the open by around 40 people. More than a hundred joined them towards the end at the same place where the masjid stood for anywhere between “35 and 40 years”.
The eviction, which spun out of control on Thursday, is aimed at setting up a mega community farming project over 77,000 bighas by the BJP-led state government to benefit indigenous youths.
“We have all lost our homes. I lost my home on Monday to eviction but we need to keep the faith. There is only one Allah who can help us in these tough times. We prayed before Allah for peace, peaceful coexistence and also to ensure a change of heart in the administration so that they start thinking about people like us because they have nowhere to go,” Imam Taizuddin, 48, told the Telegraph.
Kasim Ali, 65, and Samsul Hoque, 56, said they were not opposed to the eviction but what they had asked for was proper rehabilitation. Around 1,000 households have been affected.
Some of the affected alleged that they were served notice hours before the eviction, others a day before. After the eviction, they were informally asked by the administration to shift towards the Brahmaputra river, they said.
“We are ready to move out but what will we do there? It is a low-lying area. During the floods, the water level will flow much above our dwellings. Even now we are surrounded by water for around six months. We are also Indians,” said Ali whose name figures in the updated NRC published in 2019.
The affected riverine belt is accessible only by country boats, and the area has no power.
“Our homes are lit by solar panels, mostly supplied by the government. During the rainy season, there is water in our homes for about a month. For another five months, we have to use country boats for transport,” said Sofikul Islam, a graduate from Dholpur, who helps people with their banking needs.
The administration claims the police had to act in self-defence on Friday. The administration is wondering about the assembly of about 10,000 when the number of households to be affected was only around 60. “ Where did they come from?” chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma asked on Friday.
The imam said the population of the three villages in the area would be around 30,000, a plausible reason for the huge turnout of protesters on Thursday.
“Although only Dhalpur was affected, people from nearby villages too came. It is quite natural because the news of eviction was all over the place,” a resident said.
Saddam Hussain, a lawyer, said the affected had filed a case in Gauhati High Court in August over the then proposed eviction. “This case will continue. We will also file a PIL against the unconstitutional and inhumane eviction, seeking rehabilitation of the affected,” Hussain said.