WASHINGTON, D.C., – The Indian American Muslim Council unequivocally condemns the violent eviction drive that began on September 20 in Assam, which was aimed at driving mainly Bengali-speaking Muslims out of their homes. Nearly 800 families were evicted in the drive, and four “illegally constructed” religious structures were demolished. The raid occurred despite the fact that 246 people had filed a petition for a stay, and a hearing scheduled for today had been deferred.
Videos of the incident show police firing at civilians as they hid behind trees and huts, with two people confirmed dead from the gunfire. One of the victims was Sheikh Farid, a 12-year-old boy. The other victim, Moinul Haque, was shot in the chest and beaten to death with sticks. Even after Haque’s death, a photographer on the scene was filmed repeatedly kicking and jumping on his body. His wife, children, and parents have lost both their home and the only breadwinner of their family.
“The violent eviction drive in Assam’s Darrang district follows a pattern of state action against minority communities by treating them as ‘illegal encroachers,’” tweeted Indian journalist Mahmodal Hassan in a condemnation of the evictions.
Both Farid and Haque were carriers of Aadhaar cards, proof of both their identification and their right to live in their homes. The fact that they were targeted as “illegal immigrants” shows that BJP leadership in Assam uses the term as a smoke screen for inflicting violence on Muslims.
The use of such terms adds fuel to the Hindutva rhetoric that Muslims are foreigners in India. Under the Citizenship Amendment Act, Muslims are already under additional pressure to prove their citizenship through legal documentation, despite the fact that families like those in Assam have been living in India for decades, and such documentation is difficult to obtain. Even for those with documentation, such as Haque and Farid, identity cards do not guarantee protection against a discriminatory state.
“Today’s eviction drive is a symptom of Narendra Modi and the BJP’s fixation on rendering Indian Muslims stateless in their own homeland,” said Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of IAMC. “If India wants to remain a secular democracy, then it must shift its focus away from unilaterally declaring Indian citizens as ‘illegal’ and repeal the discriminatory laws that lead to this scale of brutality.”