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FIR filed against Romila Thapar and Sanjoy Hazarika for their remarks against Bodos

The United Tribal Organization, Assam says the attribution of violence and bloodshed to the entire community by the authors in their books is uncalled for  

“We have been compelled to lodge an FIR against the two writers for objectionable contents against the Bodo community in their books,” said Markush Basumatary, president, UTOA, at a press conference in the Kokrajhar Press Club, Kokrajhar, Assam, on 7 August.

Romila Thapar

According to Basumatary, references in Sanjay Hazarika’s book titled Strangers No More: New Narratives from India’s Northeast, such as “the Bodo use of explosive”, “Blood spattered Bodo council” and “Bodo militants’ in the pages 187, 185 and 187 respectively, have deeply hurt the sentiments of the indigenous Bodo community. He said Hazarika has also alleged that Pramila Rani Brahma, a Bodo who is a minister in the Assam government, was indirectly involved in instigating violence. Bodos are upset, Basumatary said, because Hazarika didn’t care to ascertain whether these allegations were true.

Sanjoy Hazarika

The UTOA has also taken issue with a sentence in the page 378 of renowned historian Romila Thapar’s book, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations, which projects Bodos as a militant group. Thapar writes, “Few in India pause to count the number of militant groups that are terrorizing areas of the sub-continent and are not concerned with matters of Islam … The Bodo, the ULFA, a variety of groups in the northeast, some of whom go back fifty years.”

Basumatary said that such generalizations created a negative perception about the entire community. The book should have instead mentioned a specific group and not the entire community.

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The case has been registered under sections 3 (1) (p), (r) and (u) of the Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe Act of 1989. The UTOA resorted to filing the FIR against the authors only after they had been given an opportunity to clarify.

UTOA office-bearers at the press conference in Kokrajhar

The Bodos are an indigenous community of Assam. They have been demanding a separate Bodoland state to protect their socio-cultural and political rights.

The Bodos  have condemned the role eminent historians have played in demonizing their community. There were huge protests across various universities and colleges of the Northeast, including in Bodoland University, Kokrajhar; North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong (Meghalaya); and Cotton University, Guwahati, to draw the attention of authors and publishers to the practice of labelling entire communities criminal for an act carried out by a small section of the community.

The protesters demanded from the authors an immediate apology and an assurance that such comments would not be repeated. They also demanded that the sale of the books be suspended.

(Editor’s note: Forward Press has always stood for freedom of expression. We believe that facts and arguments and discourses and debates cannot afford to be constrained by communal sentiments.)

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About The Author

Saptaparni Goon

Saptaparni Goon is a freelance journalist. She has worked with the Indian Social Institute, Delhi

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