Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday announced the formation of a special investigation team to conduct inquiries into the violence that broke out in the state last week against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Five protestors died, with four killed in police firing.
At a press conference in Guwahati, the minister furnished several screenshots of protest videos to declare several people guilty – all of them Muslims, with some allegedly belonging to the Congress and its affiliates, and the People’s Front of India.
The minister said the 273 people arrested in connection with the violence had been charged with “rioting, vandalism, arson and attempt to murder”. Sarma claimed 48 of the 107 people arrested in Guwahati were from the Lower Assam districts of Barpeta, Goalpara and Dhubri and “had come to indulge in violence” in the city. These districts are home to a large population of Bengali Muslims, often vilified as Bangladeshis or “illegal migrants”.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader held up the images of people who allegedly participated in the “Guwahati vandalism”, and claimed that it was apparent from their “clothes and ways” that they had very little to do with the permanent residents of the state. “A deadly plan was made to demolish Guwahati,” Sarma added.
The minister alleged that on December 11 an academic employed in a central government institution gave students instructions over the phone to try and surround the state secretariat, which is known as Janata Bhavan. Sarma, however, refused to name the public intellectual. “He was giving instructions from a control room,” he added.
Sarma said the All Assam Students’ Union was only involved in “democratic protests”, and claimed that the Janata Bhavan attack was carried out to malign the organisation’s image.
Case against Akhil Gogoi
However, the BJP leader said telephonic exchange was part of the evidence used in the “NIA case”. The National Investigation Agency has charged activist Akhil Gogoi and three of his associates with sedition, intention to cause riot against national integration, and provisions of the amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for criminal conspiracy and unlawful association.
On Tuesday, Gogoi was sent to the agency’s custody for 10 days. “We have seen a design,” Sarma claimed. “It is like how the Pakistani handlers carry out attacks in India.”
The minister said the government has no problem with protests as long as “anti-government, anti-national” elements with vested political interests do not back them.
Earlier in the day, Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia of the Congress accused the BJP government of carrying out a witch-hunt and targeting his party colleagues. “Several of our leaders who were only involved in peaceful protests in Upper Assam have been arrested,” he said.
Dibrugarh Police chief Sreejith T told Scroll.in that 27 people had been arrested in the district so far. They have been charged with criminal conspiracy, waging war against the nation, and armed rioting and arson.