Academicians, writers, journalists condemn FIRs against Miyah poets: 'Labels will only sharpen Assam's brittle faultlines, create conditions for ethnic, communal violence'

Editor's Note: A group of academicians and writers issued a public statement condemning FIRs against ten people, including Miyah poets and other activists, over a poem titled "Write it down, I am a Miyah." The statement termed the FIR an attempt to "malign and criminalise the Miyah poets". It urges the government to enable the writers to "to speak and write freely without fear of fear, harm or intimidation." Here is the full text of the public statement along with the names of over 220 signatories.


Public statement against the recent FIRs against Miyah poets and online trolling

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.

 Academicians, writers, journalists condemn FIRs against Miyah poets: Labels will only sharpen Assams brittle faultlines, create conditions for ethnic, communal violence

Representational image. Image: Flickr/lensnmatter

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 cyberbullying, harassment and threats that the Miyah poets, activists and their friends are being subjected to. Such conduct is not just downright unacceptable in 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.


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

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2019 11:49:10 IST