It was a chill Friday of the year 1983 and 18th day of February with soft morning sunshine. Friday being an auspicious day for Islamic faith, the people of the village could have hardly imagined that the day would unfold the greatest ever tragedy in their life. Being a Muslim majority village, the people left for work early as they had to return for the afternoon Juma namaz. Yes-that’s how the day unfolded in Nellie, a small town in Nagoan district 40 km from the state capital Guwahati. In the next six hours, Nellie witnessed the worst ever preplanned genocide that shook the very secular structure of this great country. Official reports says 1819 lives, mostly women and children, were butchered however eyewitnesses account the toll to be around 5000.
The very reason of writing about this massacre is neither to offend nor to aggravate the injuries of the minority community but to throw light on some untouched aspects which need a mention in the discussion of every civilized society on this silver jubilee occasion of the Assam Accord. There is no doubt that a fraction of Assam Movement agitators was behind this heinous crime and their hidden agenda was to give the agitation a nationalist and sentimental turn, strong enough to create a mass wave of their popularity to capture the power center at Dispur. A local publication “Janakranti” published a report on 17th April 1983 stated how some leaders of Assam movement prepared and sketched domicile geography of minority inhabited districts and villages prior to this attack. This certainly reminds us of the counting and marking of minority households and properties in Gujarat before the 2002 Godhra carnage and the state sponsored genocide that followed. Ironically, both these political massacre in the history of post independence India have a saffron angle attached to it. The objective was also more or less the same as to gain political supremacy by manipulating the opinion of the majority community and thus, the election outcome. While the Gujarat carnage was masterminded by the state government to established its supremacy, the lesser known Nellie massacre can be traced back to a not so known personality Joynath Sharma, who was believed to be a face of saffron representation among agitators.
In order to gain sympathy of Muslims, the leadership of Assam Movement shed few drops of crocodile tears and distances itself from the much controversial Joynath Sharma in a conference held at JB Law College in April 1983. The nasty game of politics had already begun right after the incident with each and every political party was trying hard to cash the situation and gain political mileage. Being seasoned politicians, the then PM Mrs. Indira Gandhi and CM Mr. Hiteshwar Saikia succeeded to some extend in wooing the minority votes but it was of no use as the bigger damage was already been done and Congress was rooted out of power in the subsequent assembly election held in 1985.
In a much face-saving witch hunt, the local administration filed some 688 cases in Jagiroad Police station but later on investigation, the legal proceedings had been dropped in each of these cases. On July 1983, an inquiry commission headed by Tribhivan Prasad Tiwari was formed and was assigned the task of investigating the disturbances that took place in the state between January to April 1983. The commission submitted its report in January 1984 but the Congress ruled state government didn’t even bother to table it before the assembly as per the Commission of Inquiry Act of 1952. The report is still waiting to see the light of justice and culprits are yet to be named and booked under the law of this great nation.
On the eve of the silver jubilee of the Assam Accord, every form of media was busy with its own interpretation of the level of success and achievement by this accord but on a retrospection-have we really achieved anything? Who is responsible for the death of thousands of innocent lives? Can’t we do anything to make justice of law prevail in our land?
Nellie has become a forbidden fruit for every political party now a days and it seems we too have developed a phobia towards it and made it an unmentionable topic to discuss. I know it’s too late to give justice to the victims- justice delayed is justice denied- but being a civilized citizen of this great nation we can atleast come forward and pressurize the government to make the investigation report public so that the generations to come will know who the real betrayer is and remove the mask from the face of the so called protector of the Assamese identity.
At present three copies of the report exist. One copy is with the Union Ministry of Home, one is with the state government of Assam and one is lying with Mr. Tiwari as his personal master copy. Now my question is that can we take the privilege of the Right to Information Act to make this report see the light. Isn’t there any organization in Assam who can fight for the cause without thinking of materialistic gains and more importantly, why not like minded people like us join hands together and make the changes in the society? Lets not try to politicize this issue and it would be better if we can keep the political parties away as their involvement would murder the sincerity of the very cause.