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Friday, September 24 2021


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What I am super happy about is what this means for India SaaS. We have a whole next set of entrepreneurs and founders who are building companies that are scaling nicely, and we all want to share this dream of India as a prospect nation.

That’s Girish Mathrubootham, the founder of Freshworks, celebrating his company’s smashing debut on the NASDAQ stock exchangewhich is also historic since it is the first Indian software-as-a-service company to be listed in the US. Its shares jumped 32%, giving it a market value of $13 billion. And according to Mathrubootham, more than 500 employees became instant crorepatis.


Podcast: The latest episode of the splainer podcast ‘Press Decode’ offers a thoughtful look at dictatorial governments targeting public iconsbe it Chinese superstar Zhao Wei or ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Paul Rusesabagina. Be sure to head over to the IVM website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts to listen to it.

 
Big Story

A gruesome eviction drive in Assam

The TLDR: Social media was awash with horrific clips of police violence during an eviction drive in Assam. One included a state-hired photographer punching a dying man. But why were policemen shooting to kill residents just to clear some government land? 

 

First, some background

The politics: Assam is ruled by a BJP government headed by Himanta Biswa Sarma—a former Congress leader who defected to the saffron party. He was rewarded with the CM gaddi after BJP retained power in the recent state elections (explained here). One of the key campaign promises: to evict “encroachers” from 77,420 bighas (around 25,587 acres) of government land and use it to benefit landless members of indigenous communities.

 

The project: is titled Gorukhuti—and the government has sanctioned Rs 96 million (9.60 crore) towards it. The aim is to use the reclaimed land to train unemployed youth from indigenous communities in agricultural practices. 

 

The target: The vast majority of people who have been targeted for eviction so far are Bengali Muslims. While the government insists their identity is irrelevant, the presence of Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam is a lightning rod—and the BJP has found great political success in promising to not just evict them, but also strip many of citizenship (see: National Register of Citizens). After a recent eviction drive on Monday, BJP MLA Mrinal Hazarika called the residents “illegal settlers,” adding: “Congress government in the past used to settle the immigrant Muslims in any vacant land to build vote bank. That must stop.”

 

Point to note: Most of the residents are not illegal immigrants but Indian citizens—whose name appears on the National Register of citizens. And they claim to have been living on this land since the 70s—and say they have valid government documents to prove their ownership of the plots.

 

The eviction drive #1

There have been a flurry of such drives since the BJP government won the state elections in May. The latest—in the villages of Dholpur in Sipajhar—targets land along the banks of the Brahmaputra. It kicked off in high gear on Monday. The police armed with excavators and riot control vehicles kicked out 800 families from—leaving 5000 people instantly homeless. A Muslim student leader said:

 

“Most of them had occupied the government land as they are landless and are unable to buy their own land. They were living there for several decades. After the eviction, they have no option but to live under the open sky… The situation on the ground is heart-wrenching.”

 

And they received no warning according to local activists: “Some got the eviction notices the night before, some on the day of the drive and some did not get any notice at all.”

 

Zero rehabilitation: The government has made no arrangements to re-home the residents—and offered zero assistance. They have now moved to other locations down the river—where they are living in the open. A local social worker says

 

“The administration is telling them to move from there too. But where will they go?... Since last night, there has been rain and fierce winds… small children, women are huddled together in the midst of all this.” 

 

There is also no running water, toilets or tarpaulin—despite the government’s promise to provide the same.

 

The government’s response: Local officials have resorted to bureaucratic responses like this: “The committee to look into the agriculture and development project in the area was constituted in June itself. We got a request from the agriculture department to declare the area as community agricultural land, so they had lots of time.”

 

But Chief Minister Sarma openly celebrated the evictions, tweeting

 

“I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and @assampolice for having cleared about 4500 bigha [around 1487 acres], by evicting 800 households, demolishing 4 illegal religious structures and a private institution at Sipajhar.”


He also shared photos of a mosque being destroyed—it was one of several torn down during the drive, along with a madrassa. In the same thread, Sarma added:

 

“On June 7, I had inspected riverine areas encroached by illegal settlers near Dholpur Shiva Mandir. I had assured temple mgmt [management] & local people to set up a Manikut, build a guest house & boundary wall.”

 

Point to note: These latest evictions are being supervised by some of the most powerful BJP leaders in the state, and being personally led by top police officials—including Superintendent of Police Sushanta Biswa Sarma, who is the Chief  Minister’s brother.

 

Eviction drive #2

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In today’s edition

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