Suspended Congress leader and Baghbar MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed has opposed the Assam government’s eviction drive in his home constituency in Barpeta district, reported The Sentinel.
“Nobody could evict you till I am alive,” Ahmed can be seen saying in a video on Wednesday. “Almighty Allah will protect you.”
Ahmed reportedly made the statement at the Bordoli village, where the government has evicted alleged encroachers from a large tract of land, according to North East Live.
In the video, Ahmed can be heard telling people that the Bharatiya Janata Party would rule the state for just five years and then those evicted can reclaim their lands.
On Friday, Barpeta Superintendent of Police Amitabh Sinha told Scroll.in that they had registered a first information report against Ahmed on the basis of a complaint filed by the Management Committee of Barpeta Satra (16th century Vaishnavite monasteries) – the current eviction drives are reportedly meant to clear land belonging to the monastries.
The FIR has been lodged for allegedly instigating the “encroachers” of the land. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that his government would take action after getting a report from the Satra commission on the alleged encroachment of the lands.
This is not the first time Ahmed faces police action for his remarks. Last year, he was arrested when a controversy erupted after an eviction drive in the Sipajhar area of Assam’s Darrang district. During the drive on September 23, two civilians, including a 12-year-old child, were killed in police firing. It was the second mass eviction drive that week.
The Sipajhar incident was part of widespread eviction drives conducted by the Assam government, which claims to be clearing land occupied by people it has branded as “illegal encroachers”. Many of those who have been evicted or are being asked to vacate are poor Bengali-origin Muslims – and are also accused of being “illegal foreigners” from Bangladesh – who had earlier lost land in floods and erosion.
Soon after the Sipajhar evictions, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had invoked memories of the Assam Movement, the anti-foreigners agitation that raged through the state in 1979-85, and the eight Assamese youth who had been killed in the area in February 1983.
Ahmed had challenged this version of history. In a video clip, he can be referred to the eight people – who many believe were “martyrs” of the incident – as “killers”. He was referring to the Nellie Massacre, which took place the same year. 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 that year.
Ahmed had said that the eight Assamese youth were “responsible for the death of many others from the Bengali-speaking Muslim community”. They were killed during a clash between the protestors and the so-called immigrants. Ahmed had claimed that the “immigrants” had killed the youths in order to “save themselves”.
Following his statement, the Congress MLA was arrested and suspended from the party.
The Congress had said that Ahmed’s “insensitive” statements could destroy the social harmony of the state. The All Assam Students’ Union had also criticised Ahmed for “disrespecting martyrs”.