The Assam unit of Congress on Monday suspended its MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed from the party, two days after he was arrested for making provocative statements on the 1983 Nellie Massacre.

Thousands of Muslims of East Bengal origin were killed in violence at Nellie village in Assam’s Morigaon district and other parts of the state in 1983.

In a video clip accessed by The Indian Express, Ahmed had referred to eight people – who many believe were “martyrs” of the incident – as “killers”. Ahmed made the comments after two Muslims were killed in police firing in Assam during an eviction drive on September 23.

The Assam Police had arrested Ahmed on Saturday for making the comments. The Assam unit of Congress had also issued a showcause notice to Ahmed for “deliberately acting in a way calculated to lower the prestige” of the party.

On Monday, the party issued suspended Ahmed on grounds of “repeatedly violating party discipline”.

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The Nellie Massacre and Ahmed’s comment

The Nellie Massacre, which took place in February 1983, happened after the Assam Agitation was launched by the All Assam Students Union in 1979. They had demanded the identification and deportation of undocumented immigrants from Assam.

The agitation witnessed several episodes of violence, with the most prominent being the massacre at Nellie village. Within six hours, agitators had killed around 1,800 people, mostly Muslim. The unofficial toll counts 3,000 dead.

Following this, there were other instances of violence too, which the police tried to quell. The eight people who Ahmed referred to in his statements, had died in violence near Sipajhar area of Darrang district.

In the video, Ahmed could be seen saying that the eight people, who are widely hailed as martyrs of the Nellie Massacre, were “responsible for the death of many others from the Bengali-speaking Muslim community”.

His comment held significance as the violence during an eviction drive on September 23 also took place in Sipajhar. Moreover, the two killed in police firing were also Bengali-speaking Muslims.

In its showcause notice to Ahmed, Congress had said that the MLA’s statements were “communally provocative” and “gnawed at [the] old wounds of the past incidents of Assam Agitation”. The party had also said that Ahmed’s “insensitive” statements could destroy the social harmony of the state.