Pravin Togadia wants DNA profiling of Muslims in Assam to ‘identify 50L Bangladeshi dogs’; no police action yet

Hate Watch

By Mahmodul Hassan / News 9 Live

“We will be safe in Assam and we will send back 50 lakh Bangladeshi dogs dragging them by their beards and caps to Bangladesh (Hum Assam mein surakshit rehenge, aur 50 lakh Bangladeshi kutto ko darhi topi pakarkar Bangladesh bhej kar rahenge),” said Pravin Togadia, a Hindutva leader and an advocate of Hindu Nationalism, while addressing a gathering of hundreds in Assam’s Abhayapuri on April 7.

Togadia subsequently furnished context to his statement – to provide “security” to the Hindus of Assam by pointing out alleged “Bangladeshi Muslims” in the state.

This is not a new one from the politician; it is one of the scores of similar controversial comments he made recently and the past in connection with Assam’s decades-long issue of citizenship and the question of “illegal immigrants”. Togadia has, in fact, managed to remain in the headlines with his “hate speeches” over the years.

Pravin Togadia, who was earlier a leading figure in Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is now the national president of the Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad.

His comments, particularly on Assam’s citizenship issue, usually faced much criticism and protests, for their “communal remarks” that erode the “communal harmony” in Assam. His last speech was no exception and tracking his line of thought, News9 decided to delve into Togadia’s recent and past speeches on the citizenship issue that witnessed decades-long unrest and bloodbath in Assam.

DNA test for Muslims in Assam

On April 7 in Abhayapuri, Pravin Togadia in more than a half-hour-long speech, spoke on the citizenship issue in Assam addressing hundreds including women, children and students.

Not mincing his words, he launched straight in, asking the crowd, “If these Bangladeshis with beards and caps stay in Abhayapuri and keep giving birth to children, say, will we be safe?”

The crowd replied, “No.”

“Say, whether all of them should be driven away or not,” he asked, eliciting a loud and collective “Yes.”

“Raise your hands and say, our demands – fresh NRC (National Register of Citizens), DNA test, send 50 lakh Bangladeshi dogs dragging them by their beards and caps to Bangladesh,” Togadia said, as the crowd repeated after him.

Togadia then alleged that “sons of Mughals have come to Assam from Dhaka” and continued, “sons of Mughals hear it loud and clear — Assam does not belong to your father.”

During his speech, he emphasised that the alleged “Bangladeshi Muslims” who came to Assam after 1951 should be packed off to Bangladesh, and that as a solution of identification DNA profiling of Muslims in Assam be done. His statements were peppered with profanity and provocative words against those he termed “Bangaladeshi Muslims” in the state.

“The names of the Muslims who were here in 1951, were included in the census of that year. We will conduct DNA tests of their descendants and of today’s Muslims… set up DNA labs in every district of Assam. If the government does not have money for the labs, then Pravin Togadia will beg across the country (for money) and provide money to the government for DNA labs. We do not need the dogs of Bangladesh. Drive away the Bangladeshi dogs,” he said.

He spoke in a similar vein in Assam’s Dhubri district on April 6, where he demanded the state government establish DNA labs in every district, including Dhubri, which is on the border of the state. His other demand was that the government complete a new NRC in a year and “drive away 50 lakh Bangladeshis.” He alleged, “Bangladeshi Muslims” have encroached “10 lakh bighas of land (619000 acres)” in Assam and he asked for life imprisonment for them, which should be done by bringing a new law.

“Conduct DNA tests on all Muslims. And after checking documents and the tests, those who were not citizens of India before 1951, their whole families be caught and sent to a separate camp, and Dhubri district be made free of Bangladeshi Muslims. This is not just for Dhubri, but for all of Assam. Complete a new updated NRC within one year and drive away 50 lakh Bangladeshis. This is my clear demand. And for this demand we are mobilising Rashtriya Bajrang Dal in every village and town of Assam. We will wholly cooperate with the government in this task. Even now, 10 lakh bighas of land are still with Assam’s Bangladeshi Muslims. I request the Chief Minister to issue a written order to clear this land in a month and arrest the ones who encroached on it and give life imprisonment to them by bringing a new law in Assam through an ordinance,” Togadia said.

In a social media post, Togadia also claimed that in the Dhubri district of Assam, Muslims comprise 75 per cent of the population and Hindus 25 per cent, blaming it on “Bangladeshi Muslim intruders.”

Togadia’s figure of “50 lakh Bangladeshi Muslims” and encroachment of “10 lakh bighas of land owned by Bangladeshi Muslims” in Assam could not be verified, and hence maybe termed a false claim.

His statements are contrary to the collective concern in Assam witnessed over the years: the demand for detection and deportation of illegal foreigners – predominantly Bangladeshi immigrants – irrespective of their religions.

The genesis of NRC and CAA

Right from the Assam movement to its end with the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985 between the government of India and the leaders of the Assam movement, and till the publication of the final updated NRC for Assam in August 2019, with 1971 as the cut-off year, the major concern always remained seeing Assam free of “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.” This was a major reason that Assam was the first state to witness another agitation in 2019 against the enaction of the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) that grants Indian citizenship under the guise of religious persecution to any person belonging to the particular religious minorities of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Jains from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, if they moved to India on or before December 31, 2014. It faced scrutiny and criticism across the country as Muslims were not included in the eligibility criteria, with many terming it as discriminatory.

The CAA protesters in Assam were concerned that granting citizenship to refugees and immigrants would take a toll on Assam and Northeastern states’ demographic balance, and also on the political rights, land rights, culture and language.

Assam witnessed many incidents of bloodbath that were related to the citizenship issue. During the Assam movement, from 1979 to 1985 — in a span of six years — 855 people lost their lives.

In 1983, in central Assam’s Nellie, in six hours more than 2000 Muslims, branded “illegal Bangladeshis”, were killed. The unofficial figures peg the numbers at over 7000.

Following this massacre, no one received punishment even after police filed 688 criminal cases with 310 charge-sheeted cases, as the then AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) government dropped the charge-sheeted cases as a part of the Assam Accord. 378 cases among them were closed citing police claims of “lack of evidence.”

Pravin Togadia celebrated the Nellie massacre through a “provocative speech” delivered in January 2013 in Maharashtra’s Nanded district.

“Once police were removed in Assam, the name of the place was Nellie. And my brothers, after that what happened? A pile of dead bodies was heaped — when counted there were more than 3000 bodies, among them, not even a single was of a Hindu,” he said, as the crowd cheered.

In 2017, during his visit to the state, Togadia had claimed that there were 70 lakh “illegal Bangladeshi Muslims in Assam.” It created further controversy as arms training was given to girls in Assam’s Hojai district during Togadia’s visit to a VHP camp.

Togadia’s statement and the arms training itself faced fierce criticism. In an article published in 2017, Assam-based journalist Hiadar Hussain had termed it a “ploy for inciting one community against another by a section of people with vested interests.”

Togadia’s figure of “70 lakh illegal Bangladeshi Muslims” was also not backed by data.

In July 2018, the Guwahati Police in Assam had barred the politician from visiting Guwahati ahead of the publication of the draft NRC. The reason the then Commissioner of Police, Guwahati, Hiren Chandra Nath, had given was his “inflammatory speeches.” Despite the ban, Togadia visited Assam and made a controversial remark terming Muslims as immigrants — “The Muslims are immigrants. The immigrant Muslims should be sent to Bangladesh. As far as the settlement of Hindus are concerned, I will take responsibility,” he said in Guwahati.

His recent provocative speeches in Assam have generated much concern among activists, lawyers, politicians as well as common people. They feel that his speeches can impinge on an otherwise peaceful Assam.

“Unprecedented hate-mongering, dehumanisation”

Aman Wadud, a human rights lawyer, who has been a support to people who are at the risk of being deprived of citizenship rights in Assam, told News9 that Togadia’s statement on 1951 as the cut-off year falls in line with what politicians and organisations in Assam have been saying. Terming Togadia’s intent on “50 lakh Bangladeshis” as hate speech, Wadud said the politician should be “booked under section 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc).”

“This is not very different from what the mainstream organisations in Assam are saying in sugarcoated words. They feel that the number of people excluded in NRC be 50 lakh and that they are not happy with the exclusion of 1.9 million people. They want another round of NRC. Politicians in Assam have also been saying the same thing, it is just that he is saying this without sugarcoating. In the end, we have been dehumanised,” he said.

Wadud questioned why the government was allowing such events in Assam at all.

“We do not see communal riots in Assam, like in the Hindi belt states. There is unprecedented hate-mongering and dehumanisation, but civil society has managed to keep calm. We have seen beef being thrown into a mandir, pork being thrown into a masjid even before the 2016 elections, but these incidents did not provoke communal conflict. However, my fear is that this aggressive maneuvering by VHP and Bajrang Dal in rural Assam will turn these places into North India,” said he. “These organisations are rising and getting space. Remember, this meeting was held in Abhayapuri, a predominantly Muslim area. Why is the government letting such people enter into these areas to give communal speeches?”

Togadia’s comment about “Bangladeshi Muslim intruders” in the Dhubri district, a part of the undivided Goalpara district in Assam, faced protests and criticism.

Terming it derogatory, Prof Sheikh Hedayetullah, President, Deshee Jonogoshthiya Mancha, a socio-cultural outfit, said, “Many leaders from outside Assam do not have knowledge about the demography and history of undivided Goalpara district.” Muslims were always the majority in these areas — undivided Goalpara district and others along the border of Assam, observed Hedayetullah, citing data on the demography of this area and Assam as a whole.

“The first census was conducted under the instruction of W W Hunter, who also prepared the report in which he clearly mentioned that when the first census in the then Assam and the undivided Goalpara district was conducted, there were 89,916 Muslims in the undivided Goalpara district, while the total number of Muslims in Assam, excluding Barak Valley, was 1,76,109. So, in 1872, more than 50% Muslims lived in the undivided Goalpara district. And these 89,916 people were termed Musalman Koch because their language, food habits and manner of clothing were similar to the Koch. (The Koch community presently resides in the borderline areas of Assam, adjacent to Bangladesh border, and also a small part in northeast West Bengal.) They were then divided into Muslim Koch and Hindu Koch,” he said. Hedayatullah further explained that before partition, following the call of Sir Sayed Mahammad Sadullah to ‘Grow more food’, peasants came from Maimansingha, now in Bangladesh, and other districts.

They crossed Rangpur and directly descended upon either Barpeta, Mangaldoi or Nagaon. “It was because undivided Goalpara was already connected to Rangpur and Dinajpur district, there were no vacant lands in the char areas of these districts… and Pravin Togadia is passing comments that all the 12 lakh Muslim Dhubrians entered India after partition (1947) or after 1951. This is utter nonsense,” he said, adding, the borderline areas like Golakganj, Gauripur, Dhubri, and South Salmara Mankachar are peaceful, with people from both communities living amicably. “Pravin Togadia should not have made such comments,” he said. News9 tried to reach out to Togadia for a comment on the controversial speeches he delivered and the prevailing criticism but our repeated calls went unanswered. The present report will be updated with his comment if and when he speaks to News9.

News9 also contacted at least two police officials in the district for the controversial speeches that Togadia delivered in Bongaigaon district’s Abhayapuri – a senior police official in the Bongaigaon district refused to speak. Nikhil Rajkhowa, officer-in-charge of Abhayapuri police station said that no complaint was received in connection to the event.



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