Last month, when 27-year-old Zakir Hussain, hailing from Assam, heard about the killing of three people in a neighbouring village, he rushed to the spot to attend the funeral prayers. It was night and Zakir along with other villagers stood in darkness and offered Janaza to the deceased.
Zakir is one of the many villagers in Assam who witnessed mass killings of Muslims in May.
On that fateful night, Zakir again rushed back to his village, some seven kilometres away, along with other villagers when he was told that the local militants had set the village on fire. "Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do. The houses were gutted in flames," Zakir recalls.
However, Zakir managed to save some people from burning including three kids with the help of few policemen. "We realised that people were too afraid to come out of their homes even when the houses had caught fire,” he remembers. Zakir immediately went to a mosque nearby and asked people to come out without fear.
On the other side of the village, Ibrahim Ali was watching the houses up in flames. A resident of Shalwari in Assam, Ali had also arrived from the funeral prayers of one of the victims. "I was watching across the river and could do nothing," Ali says. More than 40 people were killed including twenty one children and a woman who was burned alive. "Except the woman all people died in firing. The officials from forest department launched a burst attack with their rifles on unarmed civilians," Ali states.
According to Ali, the main accused Amiya Brahma, who works as a forest ranger, is a close associate of Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF). The forest officials and BFP are involved in the massacre of Muslims and other ethnic groups in the Narayanguri and Balagram areas of Assam, according to Ali and Zakir. “The state government has not done anything to nab the criminals involved in the massacre. There is an organised ethnic cleansing drive against Muslims in particular. We face the brunt of this drive every now and then. Sandwiched between impotent state government and terrorist outfits we are facing huge difficulties,” says Ali.
Both Ali and Zakir had arrived from Assam to New Delhi on Monday to present a memorandum to the newly appointed Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding immediate arrest of the culprits who were involved in the incident. "The country has put its faith in our new leader and with that hope we are here to press for justice," Zakir says. The duo were part of a protest at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday organised by All BTC Minority Students Union against the massacre of Bengali Muslims in BTAD, Assam.