Full Text of Statement:

On 10 July 2019, an FIR was filed against ten Miyah poets and other activists from Assam under five different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Telecommunications Act for a poem titled Write it Down, I am a Miyah written by senior Miyah poet, Hafiz Ahmed. The FIR accused the poets and activists, amongst other things, of depicting the Assamese people as “xenophobic in the eyes of the whole world” and posing a “serious threat to the Assamese people as well as towards the national security and harmonious social atmosphere.”

A week later, at least three more FIRs were filed over the same poem. Meanwhile, several of these poets/activists are being subjected to a barrage of online trolling and intimidation by certain individuals on social media and WhatsApp. These include death threats, rape threats and other explicit forms of harassment. There is also a wider attempt to malign the young Miyah poets and in fact, the entire Miyah community, through derogatory, lurid and baseless stereotypes. This malicious campaign only adds fuel to the existing sentiment of hostility against Bengali-origin Muslims of Assam who remain highly vulnerable to ethno-nationalist majoritarianism and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the state.

We unequivocally condemn such attempts to malign and criminalise the Miyah poets. Poetry can be a spontaneous and legitimate medium of expression of collective trauma, grievances and emotions. In the absence of other avenues, it often becomes the sole medium of speaking truth to power. Every single individual and community has, and should have, the natural right to do so without the fear of perverse consequences, including punitive action (such as FIRs). The criminalisation of any poetry marks the death of a healthy, democratic and humane society that we want Assam to be. In this context, we see Miyah Poetry as a legitimate form of literary protest against the victimisation of Bengal-origin Muslims of Assam.

In this regard, we remind the principal stakeholders –  the judicial system, on which we rest many of our hopes, and the media – of the fundamental rights guaranteed through the highest laws of the country i.e. those enshrined in the Constitution: Article 14 ensuring equality before the law, Article 15 defining equality of opportunity, and Article 19 upholding freedom of speech and expression, subject to “reasonable restrictions”. We, thus, expect and urge the government and other mandate holders to uphold the constitutional rights of all citizens, which also include the right of writers to speak and write freely without fear of fear, harm or intimidation. We believe that anyone attempting to impinge on these fundamental rights with arbitrariness and frivolous interpretations must face the full force of the law.

Further, we strongly condemn the manner in which certain lines from some old poems have been selectively quoted, distorted and taken out of context to project them as “anti-Assamese” or “anti-social”, as also highlighted in the recent statement released by the Miyah poets/activists. These are labels that only sharpen Assam’s brittle faultlines and create conditions for ethnic and communal violence. We urge all parties to refrain from using such simplistic and baseless titles against the poets.

Finally, we unequivocally condemn the cyber bullying, harassment and threats that the Miyah poets, activists and their friends are being subjected to. Such conduct is not just downright unacceptable in a civil society, but also fall under the ambit of criminal offences. We urge all members of Assam’s civil society, including prominent intellectuals, to publicly condemn the trolling of Miyah poets/activists and urge the police to take necessary action against the perpetrators.

The final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is about to be published on 31 July. In this context, the timing of the controversy and the vilification of the poets point to dangerous times ahead. We appeal to all people to assert their voices against hate, suspicion, chauvinism and censorship of literary expressions.


Signatories

  1. Suraj Gogoi, Doctoral Candidate, National University of Singapore (NUS)
  2. Parag Jyoti Saikia, Doctoral Student, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  3. Angshuman Choudhury, policy analyst
  4. Jyotirmoy Talukdar, Writing Tutor, Centre for Writing and Communication, Ashoka University
  5. Aarthi Achuthappa, Graduate Student, National University of Singapore
  6. Aashita Dawer, faculty, Jindal Global University.
  7. Abhilash Rajkhowa, President, Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Panjab University
  8. Abhinav P. Borbora, political commentator
  9. Abhishek Chakraborty, queer activist
  10. Adeel Ahmed, Advocate-on-Record, Supreme court of India
  11. Aditi Dey Sarkar, Doctoral Candidate, IIT Bombay
  12. Aditya Prakash, documentary filmmaker
  13. Aditya Ranjan Pathak, Postgraduate student, Ambedkar University
  14. Ahmed Sohaib, academic
  15. Ajitha GS, publisher
  16. Akruti Ramachandra, law student, JGLS
  17. Amit R Baishya, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Oklahoma
  18. Amrita Das Gupta, Doctoral Student, National University of Singapore
  19. Anamika Deb, Student
  20. Andrew Lee, Graduate Student, NUS
  21. Anirban Chatterjee, PhD Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  22. Anirban Datta, filmmaker
  23. Anjali Monteiro, filmmaker and academic
  24. Anjuman Ara Begum, Human Rights Activist, Guwahati
  25. Ankit Rathore, Production Editor, The Economist
  26. Ann Norinne Suk, Doctoral Student, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  27. AnnuJalais, Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore
  28. Antora Borah, Research Associate, Council for Social Development, New Delhi
  29. Anwesha Dutta, Postdoctoral Researcher, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway
  30. Apoorvanand, Professor, Department of Hindi, University of Delhi
  31. Arijit Sen, journalist
  32. Arjun Rajendran, poet
  33. Arunabh DebendranathKonwar, student
  34. Arundhati Ghosh, Cultural Professional, Bengaluru
  35. Asad Zaidi, poet and publisher
  36. Asem Chanu Manimala, Independent Researcher 
  37. Ashish Xaxa, PhD Scholar, TISS Mumbai
  38. Avijit Mukul Kishore, filmmaker 
  39. Avishek Parui, Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras
  40. Ayesha Kidwai, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  41. Baidurya Chakrabarti, academic
  42. Balawansuk Lynrah, Doctoral Student, National University of Singapore
  43. Bhargabi Das, Research Scholar, Maynooth University, Ireland
  44. Bijoy Sankar Barman, poet
  45. Biman Nath, Professor, Raman Research Center
  46. Bobo Khuraijam, filmmaker
  47. Boishakhi Dutta, Senior Sub-editor, The Telegraph 
  48. Bondita Acharya, Activist
  49. Chander Uday Singh, Senior Advocate, New Delhi
  50. Chandita Mukherjee, filmmaker
  51. D.N. Kalia, Delhi University
  52. Dahlia Bhattacharjee, IISER Mohali
  53. Daisy Barman, PhD Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  54. Debarshi Das, academic
  55. Debayudh Chatterjee, poet and translator 
  56. Debika, Assamese Queer Woman
  57. Debopriya Shome, Student, Jadavpur University
  58. Dhiman Barman, poet
  59. Dhrijyoti Kalita, PhD Candidate, University of Minnesota
  60. Disha Yadav, MA Public Policy, OP Jindal Global University
  61. Dona Biswas, PhD Women and Gender Studies, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University, Delhi
  62. Dr Costanza Rampini, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies Department, San José   State University
  63. Dr Kamal Kumar Tanti, writer, poet, researcher
  64. Dr. Laifungbam Debabrata Roy, President, CORE Manipur
  65. Dr. Dibyadyuti Roy, Assistant Professor, Communications, IIM Indore
  66. Fathima Nizaruddin, filmmaker
  67. Gaurav Mittal, Doctoral Candidate, National University of Singapore
  68. Gautam Sonti, filmmaker
  69. Ghazala Jamil, academic
  70. Gorky Chakraborty, Associate Professor, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata
  71. Hany Babu, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Delhi
  72. Har Kumar Goswami, Social Activist 
  73. Haripriya Soibam, poet and academic
  74. Heba Ahmed, PhD student, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)
  75. Henry Robert Goldsmith, Researcher
  76. Himalaya Bora, Doctoral Student, IIT Guwahati
  77. Hoda Bandeh-Ahmadi, Director of Social Research, Center for Surgical Training and Research, University of Michigan
  78. Illito Achumi, Faculty, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
  79. Indrani Chatterjee, Professor of History, University of Texas.
  80. Jabeen Merchant, film editor
  81. James Daimary
  82. Jennifer Shaheen Hussain, Media Researcher
  83. Jhilmil Breckenridge, poet
  84. Joel Rodrigues, Researcher 
  85. Jonmani Das, MPhil student, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  86. K. P. Jayasankar, filmmaker and academic
  87. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Professor, Centre for Comparative Politics & Political Theory, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  88. Kankana Talukdar, Doctoral Candidate, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  89. Karama Sherap Bhutia, Research Scholar 
  90. Karthik Teegalapalli, Wildlife Biologist
  91. Kartikeya Jain, Editor, Speaking Tiger
  92. Kaushik Barua, author
  93. Kiran Keshavamurthy, Assistant Professor, IIT Guwahati
  94. Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Vice Dean, OP Jindal Global University
  95. Koyamparambath Satchidanandan, poet
  96. Likhita Banerji, human rights researcher 
  97. Litul Baruah, Program & Analytics Specialist (Global), C&A Foundation
  98. Mabel Gergan, Assistant Professor, Florida State University
  99. Madhubanti Chanda, Dancer and Research Scholar, CSSS Calcutta
  100. Madhulika Reddy, Student, JGLS
  101. Madhurima Nundy, Institute of Chinese Studies
  102. Mainak Moitra, Senior Copyeditor, Cogencis Information Services Ltd
  103. Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee, writer
  104. Manisha Sethi, academic
  105. Manjiri Indurkar, Writer
  106. Manjita Devi, Doctoral Candidate, IIT Bombay
  107. Mansi Sharma, activist 
  108. Maroona Murmu, Associate Professor, Jadavpur University
  109. Mayur Suresh, Lecturer, SOAS, University of London
  110. Meenakshi Nair, Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School Geneva
  111. Meghadeepa Chakraborty, Banasthali Vidyapeeth University
  112. Mekhala Saran, poet, writer
  113. Mihir Vatsa, poet
  114. Minakshi Rajdev, PhD Candidate, Center for Historical Studies, JNU
  115. Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi
  116. Mitra Phukan, novelist and translator. 
  117. Mitul Baruah, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
  118. Monami Basu, Assistant Professor, University of Delhi
  119. Mohinder Singh, Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  120. Mukul Haloi, filmmaker
  121. Mukul Priyadarshini, Delhi University
  122. Nabanipa Bhattacharjee, academic
  123. Nabina Das, poet
  124. Nalini Taneja, historian
  125. Namrata Pathak, Assistant Professor, North East Hill University (NEHU)
  126. Nasreen Habib, journalist
  127. Neshat Quaiser, academic
  128. Niranjan Nath, National School of Drama
  129. Nishita Goswami, actor
  130. Nitasha Kaul, Author/Poet/Associate Professor, University of Westminster
  131. Nitin Pegu, cinematographer
  132. Nitoo Das, Poet
  133. Nivedita Menon, Professor, Centre for Comparative Politics & Political Theory, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  134. Nupur Basu, journalist
  135. Oliullah Laskar, Advocate, Guwahati High Court
  136. Pankaj Protim Bordoloi, Museum Education Officer, Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum
  137. Palaash Bhargava, PhD Candidate, Columbia University in New York
  138. Parasher Baruah, filmmaker
  139. Partha Pratim Saikia, PhD Student, IIT Kharagpur
  140. Parvin Sultana, Assistant Professor, PB College, Gauripur
  141. Patricia Mukhim, senior journalist
  142. Pooja Nirala, freelance writer
  143. Poonam Batra, Professor of Education, Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi
  144. Prabhakar Singh, Associate Professor and Assistant Dean (Research), JGLS
  145. Pradip Kumar Datta, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  146. Pragati Kalita, queer rights activist
  147. Pramod Mandade, Doctoral Candidate, IIT Bombay
  148.  Pranab Doley, rights activist
  149. Prannv Dhawan, Joint Convenor, Law and Society Committee, National Law 
  150. School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru
  151. Prasad Khanolkar, Faculty, IIT Guwahati 
  152. Prasenjit Biswas, Human Rights Activist
  153. Prativa Thomas, affiliated with Amnesty International, Sheffield, UK
  154. Praveen Donthi, journalist
  155. Preeti Gill, literary agent and publishing consultant
  156. Prerana Anjali Choudhury, Independent Researcher and Writer
  157. Prithiraj Borah, Doctoral Candidate, IIT Bombay
  158. Priya Sen, filmmaker
  159. Priya Sharma, PhD Candidate IIT Bombay
  160. Priyanka K, journalist
  161. Radhika Rani, Assistant Professor, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai
  162. Radhika Saraf, Doctoral Student, NUS
  163. Rafiul Alom Rahman, Activist
  164. Rana Saikia, MPhil Scholar, University of Delhi
  165. Ravi Singh, publisher and co-founder,Speaking Tiger Books
  166. Ravi Sundaram, academic
  167. Rima Kalita, MPhil Scholar, Department of History, NEHU
  168. Rinchen Thakur, Project Staff, Endangered Archives Project ARCE-AIIS
  169. Rintu Borah, Doctoral Candidate, IIT Bombay
  170. R. K. Debbarma, TISS Guwahati
  171. Rohan D’ Souza, Associate Professor, Kyoto University
  172. Rohan Deb Roy, Lecturer
  173. Rohini Mohan, independent journalist, Bangalore
  174. Rohini Sen, Faculty, OP Jindal University  
  175. Rohit De, Assistant Professor, Yale University
  176. Ronit Hazarika, MA Public Policy, OP Jindal Global University
  177. Ruhee Neog, security and foreign policy analyst
  178. Rukmini Chakraborty, Doctoral Student, Cornell University
  179. Rukmini Sircar, National School of Drama
  180.  Saib Bilaval, PhD Student, Center for Historical Studies, JNU, and independent journalist
  181. Saikat Datta, senior journalist
  182. Saikat Majumdar, novelist
  183. Saket Gokhale, political activist
  184. Samina Mishra, filmmaker, Writer and Teacher
  185. Samreen Farooqui, filmmaker 
  186. Samrat Choudhury, journalist and author 
  187. Sampurna Das, Doctoral Candidate, Delhi School of Economics 
  188. Samyak Ghosh, Doctoral Student, Columbia University 
  189. Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, Deputy Editor, The Wire
  190. Sanjay Kak, filmmaker
  191. Sanjib Baruah, Professor of Political Studies, Bard College, New York
  192. Sanjoy Hazarika, writer
  193. Santana Khanikar, Assistant Professor, JNU
  194. Sarah Hillaly, Professor, Rajiv Gandhi University 
  195. Satarupa Lahiri, PhD Researcher, Center for Historical Studies, JNU
  196. Satya Prateek, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School (JGLS)
  197. Sayani Basak, PhD Scholar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)
  198. Scindhia Siddharthan, Teacher, Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi
  199. Shamim Ahmed, doctor
  200. Shamya Dasgupta, journalist 
  201. Shanta Gokhale, Writer
  202. Sharifa Choudhury, Advocate, Supreme Court 
  203. Sharmadip Basu, Azim Premji University
  204. Shaunna Rodrigues, Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Fellow, Columbia University
  205. Shofiul A., Student, JNU
  206. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Artist, Raqs Media Collective
  207. Shyamal Chakma, Doctoral Candidate, SOAS, University of London
  208. Smitana Saikia, Assistant Professor, FLAME University
  209. Sohini Dutta, Doctoral Candidate, IIT Bombay
  210. Siddharth Singh, development professional
  211. Somjyoti Mridha, academic
  212. Soumyadeep Guha, independent researcher
  213. Sourv Patgiri, student.
  214. Sreejith Murali, PhD Candidate IIT Bombay
  215. Srijani Bhaswa Mahanta, Councillor, School of International Studies, JNU
  216. Srivastan Manivannan, Research Fellow, Center for Human Rights, JGLS
  217. Subasri Krishnan, filmmaker
  218. Subir Bhaumik, senior journalist
  219. Suchitra Vijayan, founder, The Polis Project
  220. Sudhanva Deshpande, publisher
  221. Suvir Kaul, A. M. Rosenthal Professor, University of Pennsylvania
  222. Swagato Sarkar, Faculty, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy
  223. Tanushree Bhowmik, senior development professional
  224. Tanweer Fazal, academic
  225. Tomujit Singha, activist and entrepreneur
  226. Tridib Mukherjee, student
  227. Tridib Nilim Dutta, journalist
  228. Trishna Saikia, MA Development Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi
  229. Uma Chakravarti, Feminist Historian
  230. Umar Khalid, United Against Hate
  231. Unalita Phukan, MPhil Candidate, University of Hyderabad 
  232. Vanessa Chishti, Assistant Professor, JGLS 
  233. Vasundhara Jairath, Assistant Professor, IIT Guwahati
  234. Veronica Gregorio, Doctoral Candidate, National University of Singapore
  235. Yasmin Saikia, Professor, Arizona State University
  236. Yengkhom Jilangamba, Faculty, TISS, Guwahati
  237. Zeba Zoariah Ahsan, water sector analyst

Featured image (for representation only): Brahmaputra river, Assam. | Source: Max Pixel

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