‘Broken our hearts’: Assam madrasa demolitions have left Bengali-origin Muslims feeling besieged (Scroll)

District administrations claim they were structurally unsound or ‘illegal constructions’. The chief minister himself has linked demolitions to terror cases.

Women in Assam’s Bongaigaon district gather outside the demolished madrasa on September 1 | Rokibuz Zaman

By / Scroll

Hazrat Ali had just finished his evening prayers around 4 pm on August 30 when he saw the madrasa compound flooded with security personnel.

By 6 pm, the local administration in Assam’s Bongaigaon district had issued orders – everyone living in the Markazul Ma-Arif Quariayana Madrasa complex had to leave by 10 pm that night. It was going to be demolished the next morning. The order cited sections of the Disaster Management Act to say the building was “structurally vulnerable and unsafe for human habitation”.

“We started crying when we heard we had to leave the madrasa as it would be demolished,” said the 17-year-old, one of the 224 students who lived and studied at the madrasa. “The police were telling us to leave the campus. My friends, Abdul Badshah and Asanul Islam, are from other districts. They didn’t know where to go at night.”

At 10 am the next day, the bulldozers arrived and started work on the two-storeyed madrasa in Bongaigaon’s Kabaitary IV village. It had been built in 1985, using donations from residents of the greater Kabaitary area.

“It took 12 hours, eight JCBs and three excavators to demolish the madrasa building. Was it a weak and vulnerable building?” demanded Musarof Hussain, president of the madrassa committee since 2005. “The demolition is an injustice to all the residents of Kabaitary.”

On August 26, five days before the demolition, the police had arrested Mufti Hafizur Rahman, a teacher at the madrasa, on terror charges.

VV Rakesh Reddy P – superintendent of police in Goalpara district, where the teacher was arrested – alleged he had links to groups such as al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and the Ansarullah Bangla Team, an outfit based in Bangladesh that has claimed responsibility for several attacks there. The two outfits allegedly have organisational links.

It has become part of a pattern in Assam over the last month – a crackdown on terror outfits is accompanied by demolitions. As of September 3, 40 people have been arrested in seven cases, according to police figures.

Most of those arrested are Bengali-origin Muslims, a community that is often labelled as “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants”. While the government alleges it is only cracking down on terror outfits, the community as a whole feels increasingly under siege.

“They have broken our hearts, not the madrasa,” said a tearful 24-year old Hasina Akhtar, who had gone to the Bongaigaon madrasa the day after it was demolished. “Is being a Muslim and practising Islam a crime now? If any bad thing happened in the madrasa, we would raise questions. Give us proof that they have recovered arms.”

This story was originally published in scroll.in . Read the full story here

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