The Assam Police on Saturday arrested Congress legislator Sherman Ali Ahmed for his ‘controversial statements’ on eight Assamese youths, who were killed in February 1983 during the Assam Agitation.
“He has been arrested. Would share case details in due course,” Special DGP GP Singh told The Indian Express. However, he did not share the sections under which Ahmed was arrested.
Ahmed was picked up Saturday evening. “Questioning is underway. We received a few FIRs against him,” police said.
Ahmed is a three-time MLA from the Baghbar Assembly constituency in Barpeta district, and was earlier with the All India United Democratic Front, before he contested on Congress tickets in 2016 and 2021.
Controversy erupted after Ahmed made comments on the February 1983 killing of eight Assamese youths near the Sipajhar area — where violence during the recent eviction drive left two, including a 12-year-old, dead. The eight killed in 1983 are among those who the Assamese believe “sacrificed their lives” during the agitation.
In a video clip, the MLA claimed that the eight people who died during the 1983 violence in Chalkhowa in Darrang district were not “martyrs” but “killers”, since they were also responsible for the death of many others from the Miya (Bengali-speaking Muslim) community. He was referring to an episode of violence in Sipajhar area between the protestors of the Assam Agitation and the “immigrant” community. He claimed that the Miya community had killed the eight Assamese youths in order to “save themselves”.
Following the statement, several organisations including the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) as well as the BJP and ally the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) criticised Ahmed for “disrespecting” the “martyrs.” The AASU demanded that he be arrested.
On Saturday, the Assam Congress issued a show-cause notice to Ahmed for “deliberately acting in a way calculated to lower the prestige of the Congress” and sought an explanation for his actions.
The notice signed by Congress general secretary Bobbeeta Sharma said that his “communally provocative comments gnawing at old wounds of the past incidents of Assam Agitation when people of Assam across communities had suffered” was ”insensitive and uncalled for”. It added that the “insensitive” statements made by him have “great propensity” to destroy the social harmony of the state.
The six-year-long Assam Agitation was launched by AASU in 1979, demanding the identification and deportation of illegal immigrants. The agitation was marked by episodes of violence, the most prominent being the Nellie massacre of 1983, which according to unofficial figures, left over 3,000 people (mostly Bengali Muslims) dead.
The Assam government website describes the Assam movement as “historic”, and “one of the famous movements in post-colonial India mainly led by students of Assam”. It says that during the “six long years of the historic movement… 855 (later on 860, as submitted by AASU) people sacrificed their lives in the hope of an ‘Infiltration Free Assam’”.