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Memorandum to Governor of Assam – Recent Incidents of Targeted Violence in Karbi Anglong District

 

A Memorandum to the Governor of Assam, His Excellency Shri. Janaki Ballabh

Patnaik

We are writing to you as a team that recently visited to inquire

into a series of targeted attacks and the retaliatory that followed. We are

concerned that perpetrators of violence have not been identified, far less brought to

book. This allows for rumour to flourish and for mutual suspicions to mount. A

deepening estrangement between Karbi Anglong’s main tribal communities could be

the outcome. That would be a situation in which the multiple armed groups that

operate in the district and the wider region with agendas that remain unclear, could

considerably advance their projects of terror and extortion.

We urge you to intervene by advising the state government and the Karbi

Anglong Autonomous District Council to ensure accountability for the violence and

adequate compensation for the victim-survivors and every opportunity for them to

reconstruct their lives and livelihoods.

We have found from our interactions with a number of administrators, civil society

organisations and individuals displaced in the recent violence, that the current

trouble in Karbi Anglong began with a number of minor incidents that were clearly

identified by responsible citizens as potential flashpoints for future trouble. Despite a

number of entreaties to check the alarming spiral of hostile rhetoric and actions, the

local administration remained quiescent.

The tension probably has its genesis in rival claims from the Karbi and Rengma

Naga tribal communities for greater autonomy than currently available under the

Sixth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. We have been told that in the absence of

fair mediation between these competing demands, a number of armed groups have

sprung up which claim to represent these communities, but are seen by civil society

and political organisations to be actively impeding their pursuit of collective

demands. Thus, a number of minor incidents occurring over the recent past,

particularly since June last year, have created a larger conflagration in late-

December 2013 and early-January 2014 resulting in the death of six people of the

Rengma Naga community and nine of the Karbi.

Our inquiries have revealed that these killings have been random and brutal, but with

a clear racial motivation. The shooting and burning of elderly women of the Rengma

Naga community, the burning of their homes and the destruction of their orange

orchards and betelnut trees, together with what seem to have been retaliatory killings

of Karbi youth who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, show

that the alienation between the communities has reached alarming levels.

We believe that there are ways of mediating between the competing demands of the

Rengma Naga and Karbi communities – and indeed, all other tribal groupings in

Karbi Anglong – without providing any room for unresolved claims to spill over into

violence. This would require a comprehensive policy to be worked out within a

consistent framework of principles, to ensure every ethnic group a proper place of

dignity, full access to their traditional resources and every opportunity to pursue

avenues for growth and development.

We have concluded from our inquiries that many of the demands of these ethnic

groups have been manipulated for expedient gain by mainstream political forces.

Indeed, we believe that the armed groups that claim to be working for the cause of

these ethnic groups may themselves be playthings in the hands of larger political

forces.

Security officials and Deputy Commissioner during interactions with us have

informed that militant groups on both sides have been securing easy access to both

home-made and professional arms. We urge you to ensure vigilance of arms

procurement, and extortion.

We would also urge you to advise the police force in Karbi Anglong to show greater

sensitivity to the demands made by civil society leaders for protection and security,

when they have reason to apprehend a breach of peace. In the recent incidents, we

have been told that civil society organisations from both sides made a number of

representations to the civil and police administration in the district, yet found them

somewhat unresponsive.

We have found that well-meaning mediation between the warring groups by civil

society organisations based in the area has often been undermined by the intrusion

of wider political interests. This manner of intervention from the state and nationallevel

groups is generally motivated by resource exploitation interests. We believe

that involvement of state and national-level interests should be premised on the

decree that they will do no harm. Only by giving local groups the autonomy and the

space to negotiate their differences and determine the resource use pattern that

would best serve their collective interests, would then wider peace be ensured.

In terms of immediate action, we would urge you to advise the Assam state

government and Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council to ensure quick

rehabilitation of the several thousand people who have been displaced by the recent

violence, mostly from the Bokajan sub-division.

We found from our visit to one of the camps for the displaced that pregnant women

and infants are in need of specialised medical care. There is in fact, a particular need

to assess the needs of women and children in the camp and to provide among other

things, for special treatment for the injured and the disabled. Trauma counselling,

confidence building and reconciliation procedures need to be conducted in the

camps, preferably on the initiative of civil society organisations from both the

communities.

Some of the killings show cruel intent . These need to be referred to local and statelevel

human rights watchdogs for investigation in accordance with applicable national

and international standards.

PLACES VISITED BY THE TEAM:

1) SHANTIPUR RELIEF CAMP-BORPATHAR PRIMARY SCHOOL. 15th

January 2014

2) CHOKIHOLA POLICE STATION 15th January 2014

3) Karbi Anglong Peace Forum 16th January

4) MEETING WITH DC and DY S.P. and visit to Shantipur Relief Camp 17th

January

PHOTOGRAPHS

 

 

 

Request for intervention from His Excellency:

1) Orders for an independent judicial enquiry and public hearings of

displaced/affected population.

2) Immediate seperation of Judiciary from the Executive

3) Directions to legal services authority to assist each displaced family and

produce a detailed report.

4) Direction for immediate construction of roads, provision of

electricity,water,medical services in the affected areas.

5) Direction for enquiry on the status of implementation of all centrally sponsored

schemes like MNREGA, NRHM, BHARAT NIRMAN, PURA.

6) Immediate payment of compensation as provided in the guidelines from the

state and central governments and compliance report.

CONSTITUTION OF THE TEAM

Members:

1. Sukumar Muralidharan: Freelance Journalist, Delhi

2. Dr. Doma T Bhutia: HRLN Advocate from Sikkim

3. Rosemary Dzuvichu: Associate Professor, Nagaland University, Coordinator HRLN,

Nagaland

4. Asst Prof. Samhita

5. Zhevi Swu: Lawyer HRLN, Nagaland

6. Satya Sagar: Freelance Journalist, Delhi

7. Sanjai Sharma: Community Health Volunteer and Member HRLN, New Delhi

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