Guwahati, Sunday, February 17, 2019
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Need to preserve memory of 21 martyrs of February 17, 1983 underlined
Mayukh Goswami
 MANGALDAI, Feb 16 - The month of February in the year 1983 is still considered as one of the darkest periods of Assam since in the name of holding the assembly elections which had been opposed by the indigenous people led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), never before seen large-scale violence, killings and counter killings at the behest of certain political circles and anti-Assamese bureaucrats covered every area of this beautiful State. Mangaldai was also not exempted from the gruesome violence when on February 17 of 1983, it witnessed the brutal killing of 21 innocent indigenous villagers.

A group of organised armed anti-social elements under the patronage of certain political circles on that fateful day killed nine villagers at Dula Chowk and 12 at Thekerabari, both under Dhula Police Station now. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) immediately declared all the 21 slain villagers as swahids.

After performance of the post-mortem examination of all the slain 21 indigenous villagers at Mangaldai Civil Hospital, the subdivisional administration did not allow the bodies to be taken to their respective homes and ordered their funeral in presence of very limited persons and that too under strict police cover. Accordingly, the funeral of 19 swahids was performed on February 19 and of two swahids on February 21 at the river bank on the backyard of Mangaldai district Jail.

Since then, the funeral spot has been transformed into a holy site and activists of the local AASU declared it as ‘Swahid Udyan’ and planted saplings for its preservation. In 1987, for the first time, the local AASU unit observed the Swahid Divas on February 17 at this Swahid Udyan in presence of the then general secretary of AASU, Shasha Dhar Kakoti.

The AASU turned AGP leaders after formation of the AGP government too declared to transform this funeral spot into a well-decorated park with the busts of all the 21 swahids. But, perhaps the AGP leaders during their two terms in power could not spare time from their valuable busy schedule to look into it. Presently, this site now lies abandoned in the heart of Mangaldai town, where the six-year-long ‘Assam Movement’ was initiated. Tomorrow on February 17, the supreme sacrifice of these 21 swahids will complete 36 years. At a time when issues like the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 and the NRC have forced the people of the State to recall the sacrifices of these swahids, it is the right time that AASU or other like-minded organisations come forward for preservation of this holy site and to transform it into a well-decorated and well-maintained beautiful spot of attraction so that the younger generation comes to know about the supreme sacrifice of these martyrs.

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