India/Assam: Student leader Lafiqul Islam Ahmed shot dead
Lafiqul Islam Ahmed was a human rights defender and a student minority leader. He was the president of the All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), a student group working to defend the rights of migrant Muslim communities in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), an autonomous administrative division in northern Assam
On 1 August 2017, at around 4.30pm, Lafiqul Islam Ahmed was on his way to the Titaguri market in Kokrajhar district after returning from an ABMSU meeting when two assailants on a motorcycle opened fire and shot him dead. The gunmen were wearing helmets and fled after the shooting. The Superintendent of Police in Kokrajhar has opened an investigation and launched a hunt for the perpetrators. Two suspects have already been detained.
Ahmed was a fierce critic of the BJP-led state government’s anti-Muslim policies and interventions. Since September last year, several thousand poor Muslims had been living on government land. They had become IDPs (Internally displaced persons) because of river erosion but were evicted by the state government without providing any alternative means of shelter. At least two people were killed when the police opened fire during the eviction operations.
Under Lafiqul Islam Ahmed’s leadership, the union has also campaigned to end child marriage, child labour and dowry and has worked on the empowerment of women. Lafiqul Islam Ahmed was also very vocal against corruption, smuggling and arbitrary anti-Muslim policies and harassment of members of the Muslim minority.
Lafiqul Islam Ahmed, along with the ABMSU, was supposed to lead a protest march on 2 August 2017 against the harassment of Muslims for allegedly being “D voters”, a category of voters in Assam whose citizenship rights, entitlements and privileges are withheld until they can prove their citizenship. Many members of the Muslim community in the state have allegedly been arbitrarily categorised as such, which makes them second-class citizens and severely restricts their civil and political rights.
He was also one of the leaders who had organised state-wide protests and demonstrations against the killing of Yaqub Ali who was shot dead by police in the state’s Goalpara district on June 30.