The Justice P.C. Phukan Commission of Inquiry probing the clashes between Bodos and Muslims in northern Assam's Udalguri district on August 14, 2008, that later turned into a full blown communal clash in the district as well as in the neighbouring Darrang district, has held the Muslim Students Union of Assam (MUSA) responsible for starting the violence.
The Commission, in its report tabled on the floor of the Assembly on Saturday, also said that there was total failure of the intelligence wing of the police as far as incidents of August 14, 2008, in Udalguri district were concerned.
The Assam government instituted the judicial probe on October 31, 2008 to ascertain the circumstances leading to the incidents that took place at Rowta, Bhalukmari and Hatkhola areas of the district during a bandh called by the MUSA.
It had called for an Assam bandh on the day to protest against alleged harassment of citizens belonging to a minority community in the name of detection of Bangladeshis in upper Assam.
Two days before the MUSA-sponsored bandh, the All-Assam Minority Students' Union (AAMSU) had also called an Assam bandh on the same issue, which passed off peacefully.
However, the MUSA-sponsored bandh left 15 dead, 11 missing (of which seven are presumed to be dead) and at least 22 injured on a single day.
The clashes left over 50 dead. Fifty-four villages were directly affected by arson and mob attacks, in which 2,505 houses were either completely burnt or partially destroyed, while residents of 150 other villages fled their houses. Over 2.12 lakh people took shelter in relief camps.
“The MUSA office-bearers and activists are squarely responsible for starting the violence by forcing the shop-keepers to close their shops and beating up those who refused to oblige and forcing scooter/motor-cycle riders, cyclists etc. to stay off the road and beating up those who resisted such use of force. If such shopkeepers, motor-cycle riders, cyclists etc, while resisting use of force by MUSA activists, struck them back in private defence of person and property, they cannot be said to be on wrong side of law. On the other hand, MUSA as an organisation and its office-bearers and activists cannot be said to be on right side of the law. In the first place MUSA committed illegality by calling a bandh, for bandh has already been banned by the Supreme Court of India and reiterated by the Gauhati High Court. What is worse, the MUSA activists used force to enforce such illegal bandh giving rise to clashes between bandh supporters and non-supporters and ultimately to violent ethnic clashes involving mainly immigrant Muslims of Bangladesh origin on the one hand and Bodos as well as a small number of non-Bodos like Assamese speaking Rabha and Kachari on the other hand,” stated the one-man commission of inquiry headed by the former judge of the Gauhati High Court, Justice P.C. Phukan, in its findings.
The Commission also pointed out that as far as the incidents of August 14, 2008, in Udalguri district were concerned, it was a clear case of non-functioning of the intelligence wing of the police.
“Admittedly, the district police came to know about the August 14 bandh only on August 13, and that too from newspapers and not from DSB [District Special Branch], SBHQ [Special Branch Headquarters] or SIB [Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau]. What a shame that the personnel of the intelligence agencies had no information about the bandh, while the journalists and many others knew about it. The then Superintendent of Police said that lack of staff resulted in no intelligence intake. Whatever may be the causes, the fact remains that there had been a total failure of the intelligence wing of the police,” the report added.