D-Voters: Did the Police Target the Youth Killed in A Demonstration in Assam?
GUWAHATI: A not very large demonstration by Muslims perturbed about being reduced to a Doubtful Voter category in Goalpara turned tragic when a youth, pelting stones later, was shot dead by what appears to be a targeted assault by the police as the videos above reveal. These were telecast by local television channels and have sparked off a debate amongst concerned citizens with several organisation condemning the incident.
A group of people were shouting slogans and tried to block the movements of vehicles on the National highway 37 protesting against the Election Commission’s practice of branding doubtful citizens as ‘D’ voters in the state. As the video above shows, 22 year old youth named Yukub Ali who was also in the small group was struck by a bullet fired by the police appearing to be targeting the protestors systematically. His dead body can be seen being removed from the spot by the cops as well.
The policeman being egged on to fire, aimed his rifle of what would clearly be an above the waist shot. The cops do not seem to have followed the standard operating procedure of a lathi charge, tear gas, or rubber bullets to disperse the mob before the firing. And that too is required to be aimed below the waist and not above.
Eyewitnesses to the incident cite the above details. The police claim that the mob pelted stones at the police personnel, blocked the traffic on the national highway and also damaged public property. “They were denied permission to hold this kind protest,” Goalpara superintendent of Police Amitava Sinha said.
Guwahati based advocate and activist Aman Wadud said that police should never have fired at the protestors targeting to kill them.
“If they didn't take permission, book them under laws of the land. But there was no provocation for even the lathi charge (see first video above). There were ways to disperse the mob,” said Aman.
Several organizations have condemned the incident of killing and demanded an independent inquiry. All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU), a students’ body of the state has also lodged FIR again the police. An AAMSU leader said that the visuals which were aired by the local television channels clearly indicate that the young protestor was targeted and killed.
“This is the most unfortunate incident anyone can witness in a democratic country. The visuals were so terrifying.We demand an independent inquiry immediately,” said Ainuddin Ahmed, general secretary of AAMSU.
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), an influential peasants’ body of the state also condemned the police firing and demanded an enquiry.
The Goalpara district administration has ordered a magisterial enquiry.
D or doubtful voters are disenfranchised by the EC on the account of their alleged lack of proper citizenship credentials, a practice that was started from 1997. Such D marked electors are neither permitted to cast their votes nor contest elections. A total of 2,31,657 'D' voters were marked in 1997, a figure that increased to 3.5 lakh in the next revision. Everyone so categorised must prove their Indian citizenship before the Foreigners' Tribunals.
However, on numerous occasions, many of the Indian citizens are harassed under this provision, and even though several cases have been cleared by the tribunal and other courts,many citizens are still suffering in the ‘doubtful’ category.
“After working for the last few years, meeting scores of victims and representing them in different courts and tribunals, I can say with all conviction that hardly any of the so called ‘D-voters’ are actually ‘Doubtful Voters’. The Election Commission officials arbitrarily mark Indian citizens as ‘D Voters’ without any investigation whatsoever,” said advocate Aman.
He also referred to some cases where some of the prominent personalities have been marked as doubtful voters which include Padma Shri Eli Ahmed, family members of Syed Abdul Malik, one of the highly respected icons of Assamese literature, and a family member of actor Adil Hussain of ‘Life of Pi’ fame.
Very recently, even a policeman who has been donning the uniform for the last one decade, was asked to prove his citizenship which was reported by The Citizen on June 11, 2017.
These are not just rare cases or exceptions but part of the larger whole where Indian citizens are termed as doubtful and harassed.
The protest on June 30 was instigated by one controversial advocate Nazrul Islam who was arrested by the police the next day for allegedly instigating the mob to destroy public property and injure police personnel on duty.
Islam has a controversial past. He was recently arrested for assaulting a judge of the Goalpara foreigners’ tribunal and he was out on bail when he organised this rally.
Many from within the community are also questioning Nazrul Islam for not maintaining the control required over the hapless villagers. “First of all the police violated the norm by shooting down a protestor. It’s unfortunate and condemnable. We can’t accept it at any cost. However, I also question the role of the leaders who organized the rally. Why did he fail to keep the crowd calm and non-violent? Why do such leaders use common people like the unfortunate Yukub Ali as a scapegoat to climb the ladder? Till when such practices will continue,” said Hafiz Ahmed, president of Char Chapori Sahitya Parishad (CCSP), a literary body.