By Tinat Atifa,
17th February, 1983: The fireflies sparkled in the thickets! The fog gently wrapped the closely knit huts in a protective cloak while the men, women and children were drenched in deep slumber! Little did they know about the ‘rave party’ being celebrated at a Tea Estate just a few kilometres away! They slept, in peace, unaware that an evil plot was being hatched against them by their friends-brothers, the Lalung-Tiwas, the Nepalis and a few Hindu Bengalis.
The manager of the TE, Mr. Roy, fed these poor innocent people with vile stories about the villagers of Nellie, apart from the intoxicating drinks, food and money.
These people have been branded as ‘illegal immigrants’ since the time they made Nellie their home!
“Why are we called Bangladeshis? Why? I have been born here. My late father, Hasmot Ali’s name is in the 1951 NRC. However, I have been given a D against my name. Why? Just because I wear a lungi, a prayer cap and sport a beard? Isn’t it a sad situation?” Haji Sirajuddin says, surprisingly with no remorse in his voice.
“The morning of the incident, I was elsewhere. I was horrified. I couldn’t believe that forty seven of my family members were butchered. Hacked to death! And killed by whom? By the very same people we talk to everyday. The people whom we call our brothers, our well-wishers! And no cases were registered against them at the police station. Even the police refused to help us. Everyone turned against us, calling us foreigners. We were helpless, distraught!” Haji Sirajuddin went on, listlessly.
“I ran from pillar to post for help. But to no avail!”
The days went by and Haji Sirajuddin could think of nothing but turn to God. He went off for Haj in 1985 and now when we talk to him, he says that Allah will take care of everything! Nothing scares him at this point of life, the calmness in his voice and countenance extremely disconcerting for people like me, who is wont to think otherwise!
“Imagine, forty seven, 47 of my family members were murdered. I could have turned into a terrorist! Couldn’t I have? I could have hacked the people who killed my family. But I didn’t! I just patiently turned towards my Allah! He will look after me, I realised!”
Just like Haji Sirajuddin’s family, there were thousands of others who died that fateful morning, not because of their religious orientation but because they were wrongly believed to be ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bangladesh, whereas the reality is that these people were the inhabitants of Rupohi and they had shifted to Nellie in 1940 for want of space and the need for farming and agriculture.
Just like Late Hasmot Ali, Late Solimuddin, s/o Late Kudratullah, Late Rohimun Nessa, Late Rafique Ali, Aftabuddin, s/o Late Suruj Ali, all had their names in the 1951 NRC, ER 1966 and ER 1971.
So, doesn’t this make them Indian citizens? Weren’t these the same people whose forefathers fought against the British for the freedom of the country? Is this the reward the country had in store for them? Did they deserve to die? And that too at the hands of their brothers, who were misled to believe that they were Bangladeshis!
We of course know too well who misguided the Supreme Court against the IMDT ACT. And how can we forget the handiwork of a front-running national radical group who was behind this worst case in the history of mankind of innocent people massacred for no fault of theirs!
They are legal Indians after all! Even now, after so much of pain, they are still looked at as ‘illegal immigrants’! I only wonder when they will get respite?