Demand immediate Action on Police atrocities against innocent villagers in Forbesganj, Bihar
Dear Shri Nitish Kumar,
The recent police atrocities in the Forbesganj district of Bihar, and the subsequent inertia of the state administration under your leadership, has shocked people of conscience belonging to all faiths and political persuasions. It is in this context, that I am writing to you, on behalf of the Indian American Muslim Council, an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos.
The magnitude of the crime committed in Forbesganj is evident from the fact that police chased peaceful protestors all the way into their homes and killed them, not sparing even a 6 month old baby and two women, including one who was pregnant. Videos of the victims’ bodies, that showed clear marks of bullets fired at point blank range, are stark evidence of the hate that motivated this senseless killing.
Hopes of decisive action by the state government were quickly dashed, when your administration dithered and vacillated, before announcing a judicial probe instead of a CBI inquiry. To add insult to injury, you refused to unequivocally condemn the incident for two weeks or announce compensation for the victims, instead claiming that people were “making a mountain out of a molehill”. It is unfortunate, that it took overwhelming public condemnation of this incident for you to announce your belated resolve to punish the guilty.
To independent observers of the region, it is clear that the propaganda launched by the BJP and ABVP, with baseless allegations of the Muslim-majority villages being a “haven for terrorists”, played a decisive role in this senseless loss of life. The fact that police officer SK Yadav jumped on one of the dead bodies (Ref. FIR filed by Prashant Kumar in Case No. 273/11, dated June 4, 2011), shows that the killings were motivated by hate and ideology rather than any transgression of the law by the villagers.
The Forbesganj police firings should serve as a wake up call for your administration as well as all political parties, about the real costs of a discourse that demonizes a section of the populace based on their religious affiliation.
On behalf of Indian Muslims and all people of conscience, the Indian American Muslim Council demands the following:
- That your administration call for a CBI inquiry into the incident, instead of the judicial probe. With the sectarian background behind this incident, only an impartial inquiry conducted by a central body would have the independence and credibility required to probe a crime of this magnitude
- That you suspend all the police personnel involved in the incident pending the results of the CBI investigation
- That you visit the grieving families of the victims of this atrocity and announce immediate compensation and rehabilitation for them
- That your administration drop all the absurd charges against the innocent villagers. Some of the charges registered by the police and the Auro Sundaram International Company have 3000 villagers of Bhajanpurand, including women and children, as the accused. Not only were the peaceful protestors gunned down mercilessly, the criminalization of their protest is a travesty of the law and goes against common sense
- That your administration provide full support to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which recently announced its own investigation into the Forbesganj firing
The State of Bihar, as well as your own legacy as its Chief Minister, is at a crossroads. We urge you to heed the voice of reason and fairness, and fulfill the mandate given to you the people of Bihar. As the philosopher Blaise Pascal once noted, “Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.”
By treating everyone as equal before the law, you have the responsibility and the opportunity to rise to the occasion. People are anxiously waiting for you to exercise genuine leadership.
Indian American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.