The Prabhajan Virodhi Manch, an anti-migrant body in Assam, on Wednesday filed a police complaint against The Hindu editor Suresh Nambath and two researchers for an article and a blog written on a recent eviction drive in the state.
On September 23, two civilians, including a 12-year-old child, were killed in police firing during an eviction drive in the Sipajhar area of Assam’s Darrang district. It was the second mass eviction drive that week. The villages that were issued eviction notices were mainly home to Muslims of Bengali origin.
The Prabhajan Virodhi Manch, which filed the complaint at the Latasil police station in Guwahati, describes itself as an “anti-infiltrator forum” on Facebook. The group aims to drive out all undocumented migrants from Assam.
In the past, the Prabhajan Virodhi Manch have often urged the government to remove “illegal encroachers” from the Assam’s Sipajhar area, which they claim has been occupied by “illegal Bangladeshis”. Most people living the area are Muslims of Bengali origin.
Of the articles the group objected to, one was written by Suraj Gogoi, a research scholar at the National University of Singapore, and was published in The Hindu. The other was written and published by Angshuman Choudhury, senior researcher at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, on his blog.
In their complaint, the Prabhajan Virodhi Manch claimed that Gogoi’s article in The Hindu “had many instances of offensive speech being made against Assam and the larger Assamese community”.
The complaint also objected to Angshuman Choudhury comparing Bijay Bania, the Darrang district’s photographer, to 17-century military commander Lachit Borphukan. The group claimed that the reference was an “attempt to give provocation to cause riot”.
Bijay Bania was seen in a video jumping on a man lying motionless on the ground during the September 23 eviction drive. The man who had been attacked was identified as Moinul Haque.
Choudhury had later edited his article to remove the reference to Lachit Borphukan. On his blog, he added that the deleted sentence was meant to be a metaphorical analogy, but was taken literally. “The intent was never to hurt any particular community’s sentiments here,” Choudhury wrote in the note.
This is not the first time Assamese nationalist groups have gone to the police about writing what they claim depicts the Assamese community in a poor light. In 2019, the state police filed an FIR against a poem on citizenship written by “Miya” Muslims, as Bengali origin Muslims are called in Assam. The complainant claimed the poem intended to paint the “Assamese people as xenophobic” in order to fan communal tension.