Frontpages of Assam newspaper reporting the assault on a Muslim teacher in Karimganj

Frontpages of Assam newspaper reporting the assault on a Muslim teacher in Karimganj

The VHP attack on a Muslim teacher in Karimganj, accusing him of molestation, has raised fears in Assam that Hindutva groups are trying to do a Muzaffarnagar in the Northeast

By Dr Mustafa Barbhuiya

Curfew has been imposed in the Karimganj district of Assam following massive street protests from people of minority community over attack on a college teacher by Hindutva mobs. It was reported in local Bengali daily newspapers published from Karimganj that on the early morning of October, 16, Thursday a group of men belonging to VHP and Bajrang Dal approached Mr. Fazlul Karim for Kali puja donations at his rented house at Subhash Nagar area of Karimganj town. When the teacher failed to give the donation the mob tried to attack him. The landlord of the house intervened and saved Fazlul. A few hours later, another huge mob along with a girl and her father approached the Subhash Nagar house of Fazlul and almost beat him to death after accusing him of molesting the girl. Police was called to the scene immediately.On the spot, the girl and her father filed an FIR mentioning that the teacher tried to outrage her modesty when she went for private tuition to the teacher on Monday, October 13, 2014. In the meantime, the news spread across the town and family members of Fazlul Karim arrived on the spot and took him to Karimganj Civil Hospital while doctors referred him to Silchar Medical College Hospital. As the news spread, the students of Nilambazar College, Karimganj where Mr. Fazlul Karim teaches philosophy started demonstrating blocking national highway-6. It is said that Mr. Fazlul is very popular among the students.

On the way to Silchar Medical College Hospital, once the ambulance approached Silchar City, another huge mob of hooligans stopped the ambulance and attacked the victim, his family members and the Karimganj district police escorts could not help much. The Cachar District Police stepped in and did the rescue and took all the injured to hospital. Family members and colleagues accompanying Mr. Fazlul Karim were seriously injured and are admitted in hospital now. The victims included Mr. Husnul Karim (younger brother), Shalikur Rahman, Imdadul Haque and Anwar Hussain.

A scanned image of headlines of local newspaper Dainik Samayik Prasanga published from Silchar describing the incidence on October 17, 2014 morning is made available. It was very unfortunate to note that one of the leading newspaper of our country the Times of India carried a news item on this that neither told the truth nor it was as per the spirit of news coverage and reporting.

To restore law and order section 144 has been imposed all over the Karimaganj district as well as the other two adjacent districts of Hailakandi and Cachar. No arrests of hooligans who attacked the teacher were made.

Assam has repeatedly been rocked by communal violence targeting Bengali-speaking Muslims, seen here fleeing  homes after the violence in this AP file photo.

Meanwhile as part of efforts to restore peace, Member of Parliament from Karimganj Mr. Radheshaym Biswas, Member of Legislative Assembly from Katigorhah, Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuiya, the editor of leading local newspaper, Dainik Samayik Prasanga Taimur Raza Choudhury, social workers Shourindra Bhattacharjee, Milon Laskar, Gautam Dutta, Sanjiv Laskar, Dinendranarayn Biswash, Mujammil Ali, ex MLA Dipak Bhattacharya and others made an appeal to general public  through local newspapers to maintain peace and calm. There have been wild rumors, communal tension and chaos since the incident and Assam is back on the edge, according to local media reports   There has been no fresh violence though while public demonstrations were on against mob lynching of a widely respected teacher.

Mr. Bishwajit Das of Daily Nababarta Prasanga published from Karimganj raised some intricate question about the incident. Was the attack on the college teacher preplanned by hate mongers to create social and communal chaos again? Was there really any incidence of molestation? If it was, then why the girl did not report to police on October 13, Monday itself? Why did she and her father come along with a mob on Thursday and later when police arrived filed an FIR? These were to be decided by a court of law and not by the VHP hooligans.

Mr. MB Qasmi, editor of the Eastern Crescent said “If the court was to decide the matter then why those goons have to take the law and order in their hands? Why some scoundrels have to attack the ambulance to kill the victim and remove the living witness?”

The further investigations would prove whether the right wing Hindutva elements exploited the case as they had done recently in case of violence in Muzaffarnagar and Meerut.  It is worth mentioning that the Barak Valley (comprising three districts of Assam- Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi) a beautiful plane of the Barail mountain range was called by late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi as the Island of Peace in North-East India. The people of the valley from all sections of society demanded probe into the incidence so that real culprits could be brought to book.

Dr. Mustafa Barbhuiya is a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA. He is a native of Hailaknadi district of Assam