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'The situation in Assam is worse than Gujarat in 2002'

August 13, 2012 18:05 IST

If the apathy towards the plight of Muslims in the north-east continues it will disturb the peace of the region for a long time to come, SP national secretary Kamal Faruqui tells's Sheela Bhatt.

"The Assam riots will make us forget Gujarat," says Kamal Faruqui, national secretary of the Samjawadi Party, in exasperation.

He told, "Muslim youth in the country are carrying aakrosh (anguish) within them on seeing the condition of Muslims in Assam and Myanmar."

If the apathy towards the plight of Muslims in the north-east continues, he says, it will disturb the peace of the region for a long time to come.

"The situation in Assam is worse than Gujarat of 2002 because the Bodos have driven out Bengali-speaking Muslims from their homes. Last month, they lit fire to their farmland and kept one exit available. The Muslims ran for their lives when a fire broke out in the middle of the night."

Now more than 3.5 lakh Muslims are in relief camps in Assam. Faruqui says, "The worst case scenario and the most likely one is that these Muslims will not be allowed to go back to their homes unless they show their identity card or proof that they are Indian or they have migrated from Bangladesh before 1972. When their houses have been burnt down, how will they show proof of identity?"

He says, "In Gujarat, if not all, most Muslims could go back to their villages from relief camps but here it is a conspiracy. It's a war for land. Bodos want to drive out Muslims from the areas where governance is under the Bodo Autonomous Council."

He says if non-Bodo Assamese keep quiet today, they will also be hit tomorrow. "The ethnic clashes targeting Santhals, Rajvanshis etc are bound to come once Bengali-speaking Muslims are driven out from their homes from the interiors of Assam."

Faruqui says when the Nellie massacre took place in 1983 more than 3,000 Muslims were killed in a day. That time, too, Muslims were forced to live in relief camps. So many of the victims of Nellie are yet get a settlement. Therefore, the victims of the latest Assam riots have no hope, he says.

"We are stunned to see the really poor coverage in the media about the anti-Muslim violence in Assam and Myanmar. We are aghast to see how the Congress governments in Assam, Maharashtra and in New Delhi are not acting to help the minority," he says.

"Is it fair to not make any noise when Hindus of Bangladesh illegally migrate to India but brutal riots take place when Muslims migrate to India to sustain their families? When Bangladesh was liberated it had around 24 percent Hindus, now they are less than eight percent. Obviously they have migrated to different parts of India. But no hue and cry is made against the illegal migration of Hindu Bangladeshis.  I have no issue with Hindu Bangladeshis migration to India, it's a humanitarian issue. But why this double-standards?" he asked.

Faruqui shows a series of horrific pictures on his iPad sent from Myanmar purportedly depicting Rohingya Muslims killed in the sectarian violence. Since June, incidents of violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have shaken the Islamic world. 

Faruqui angrily asks, "What is the Indian government's foreign policy on Myanmar? Are we not supposed to speak against the killings of innocents in our neighborhood?"

"Why are our government and media not helping the Muslims in Myanmar?" he asks.

Faruqui also expresses his concern over Badruddin Ajmal's politics in Assam.

Ajmal is head of the Assam United Democratic Front, which claims to represent the Muslims of Assam and his divisive politics earned him rich dividends in the last assembly election. "After Ajmal's party won, some of us thought riots in Assam will follow soon because Bengali-speaking Muslims have now got a voice and the Bodos will take note of it," says Faruqui. 

"Assam's Muslims are making a huge mistake of not joining the mainstream parties or secular regional parties. It will be dangerous for them to join a party that only takes up the cause of the Muslims. I see more bloodshed in Assam in the coming days. How unfortunate it will be!" Faruqui concludes.

Image: Coverage of the Assam violence in the national media. Faruqui says the media covered the event very poorly.

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi