Raghabil (Assam): “I was married 29 years ago in this village. How can someone call me a Bangladeshi?”, says Romila Khatun about claims by some Bodo groups that Muslims in Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) are from the neighbouring country.
Speaking fluent Assamese, the 45-year old mother of two boys says she had ‘land patta’ in Narayanguri village and possessed all valid documents before their houses were burnt down by terrorists during the attack on May 2 in Baksa district.
“I was born in this village… I hope some documents are still there. I request the authority to find out those for our land rights. Most of the people in the affected village of Narayanguri have land rights,” Romila’s 26-year old son Safikul Islam said.
Following the two-day attack in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts since May 1, some groups have been claiming that these people are illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh and they need to be evicted.
However, not many people agree with this theory. “Even if we are Bangladeshi migrants, then it is the job of the government to send us back.The Bodos do not have any right to kill our women and children, and burn our properties,” Islam said.
Khatun’s family, comprising two sons, one daughter-in-law and two grandsons, is among the five-odd families that did not suffer any casualty in the mayhem.
All the six members are now taking shelter in the relief camp at Bhangarpar market.
The inmates of the relief camp claimed the Narayanguri village was home to over 200 families before 2004, when Beki river changed its course in a devastating flood and submerged most of the area.
After that, around 75 families were staying on the west side of the river.
“The Beki is flowing over our ‘myadi patta’ land. All our land was devoured by the river. Still we stayed back, but completely dependent on the other side for our essential commodities,” 75-year old Iman Ali said.
“I have 30-year old land patta.My son and grandson all got married from there. And now people are saying that I am a Bangladeshi!” Ali, who lost his wife in the attack, said in fluent Assamese.
A senior police official of Baksa district seemed to agree with their claims.
“These people have been living here for decades.Their children go to Assamese primary school. They can speak good Assamese. It is very unlikely that they have come here in recent years,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The official, however, said there is a possibility that they might have come to Assam during creation of Bangladesh but the way they have assimilated themselves with the local culture, it is not proper to term them Bangladeshi now.
“These people are mostly stone cutters and farmers.They also do some other jobs.In a way they are contributing to the local economy. Most importantly, these people are very peaceful and have never created any law and order problem,” the police official said.
Forty-one people were killed in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts of troubled Bodoland Territorial Area Districts.
The attacks were allegedly carried out by the ruling Congress government’s ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF)-supported terrorists.
After meeting the victims at the Bhangarpar relief camp, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had said his government will snap ties with BPF if the charges against them are proved.
While the investigation has been handed over to a team of NIA, the state government has ordered an independent judicial probe into the incidents.