Nellie Massacre: 40 years of injustice

Nellie Massacre

By Faizulbari

The Background


Romisa Khatoon runs wildly to save her life with her baby hanging on her back when she suddenly feels a very strong pain in her chest.[1]

The blood flew so much that she fainted. A few days later, her eyes opened in the hospital, and she first asked about her child, who was killed on the very day of his unconsciousness. This is the story of the Nelly Massacre which happened 40 years ago. 

This matter happened on the 18th of February 1983, when the largest massacre of independent India was carried out in 14 villages including Nellie in the Nagaon district of Assam Where nearly two thousand people according to the government data, and more than ten thousand people according to unofficial data were killed in 6 hours.[2]

The worst cruelty a man can imagine with his intelligence happened that day in Nellie where many innocent children were killed in the nearby village and thrown into the Kopili river and thousands of Muslim families were completely destroyed. 

Mohammad Safeeruddin, a victim of the Nellie Massacre stated in an interview that “They were chasing and running behind us and killing from morning 9 am till 3 pm. Mother, 2 sons, brother’s daughter-in-law, and my niece were killed in our family.”[3]

Taizul Haque, the secretary of a mosque in Nellie which was burnt down stated that “They have bombed our mosque. There were 9 thousand people living in 8 villages being trapped by 40 thousand people.”[4]

Another eyewitness of this pogrom stated – “They burnt down the whole village, snatching small innocent children and throwing them into the fire in front of mothers.”

Researchers and Historians have argued that the main reason for this issue was Anti-Foreigner Agitation or illegal immigrant issues. Under the leadership of the All-Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) started in 1979 as a movement to remove the names of illegal immigrants from the voter’s list. The atmosphere was very tense and there were reports of clashes every day. 

In such a situation, in the 1983 assembly election happened, senior journalist Hemendra Narayan in his book ”25 Years On…Nellie, Still Haunts” Quoting the then Assam Inspector General of Police, KPS Gill, it is written that it was impossible to conduct an election in the 23 Constituencies including Nellie due to the ethnic struggle.[5]  

 Here the All-Assam Students Union had boycotted the election but Nellie and the Muslims around it voted. Just because the Muslims voted against the boycott, that’s why these killings happened with the aim to teach them a lesson meaning the voting for this slaughter was an immediate reason. But Nellie Massacre Survivors say that It Was Prepared for a Long Time in fact 6 months ago they were being isolated from the world.[6]

Role of Police?

Diganta Sharma has written in his book “Nellie 1983’, that the police knew in advance and at least 3 days ago that a very dangerous massacre was going to happen. He further warned Zaheeruddin Ahmed of the then Nagaon police station’s office in charge. And the alerting message was quoted by Zaheeruddin, Marigaon 5th Battalion Commandant, Sub Division Police Officer, and Naba Chetiye Office in charge has been sent to the Jagiroad Police Station which was totally ignored. There is a different allegation that the police were also involved in this massacre as the police didn’t stop the killings.

An eyewitness claimed that “Assam police killed people, they diverted and confused. CRPF was saying nothing has happened, all is fine.”[7]

 RSS involvement with “AASU” 

In 2017, a book was published by an RSS ideologue named Rajat Sethi and Subhrashtra, they mentioned in it that till 1975 there was a Sangh branch of RSS in every district of Assam. On the 10th of April 1983, the then CM Hiteswar Sakia held a press conference where he released papers of some AASU activists that proved how they organized killings by branding Muslims as foreigners.[8]

For the Nellie Massacre, there were other communities also to blame in which ethnic groups like TIWA and LALUNG were also involved. The founder of the chief executive member of the Tiwa Autonomous council NKR says that this massacre is not only done by Tiwas and that’s why Lalung tribals are also blamed. He also added that some members of the Assam movement and RSS-influenced people were also involved in this crime.

He said, ” Originally the Tiwa Community is not only responsible for the Massacre. The area where the massacre happened is a tribal area, where Lalon and Tiwa communities are staying. That’s why both communities have been blamed for the Massacre. The Reality was the RSS and AASU, the radical Assamese group and follower of Hindutva Ideology, who backed these communities and inspire them to take action against Muslims.”

TP Tiwari Commission was established and the commission report was submitted after a year, it took 35 years to make it public. Nearly 688 FIRS were registered after this massacre and 378 cases are not opened yet. It will be surprising to know that there was an incident in which nearly 10 thousand people were killed and nobody got punished. In fact, people who were killed in the Assam movement were given the title of Martyr and the people who were killed in the Nellie massacre were not included in this list.[9]

An amount of 35 thousand has been given to those who lost their lives in the Assam movement, while only 5 thousand has been given to the martyrs of Nellie. Not only this, in the next year in 1984, the amount of 35 thousand had also been given for the massacre of Sikhs, but those who died in the Nellie Massacre were given only 5 thousand.

 Present scenario……

To date, the culprits of the Nellie Massacre are still not punished. The police and the state had a chance, if they wanted, they could have stopped such a huge massacre. During the Massacre Congress was in power in the center, and Presidential Rule was enforced in the state which meant the state and the center were in control of the Congress. But the killers of around 10 thousand Muslims are still not punished and Justice has not been provided by the system. Rather, even today the people of the Nellie Massacre are living in the same bad condition.

[1] Taha Amin Mazumder, “Nellie 1983 Revisited: Victims Say They Had Been Barricaded for 6 Months Before the Massacre”, News Click, (24 Feb 2019)

 [2] Shorbori Purkayastha, “Nellie Massacre – How Xenophobia, Politics Caused Assam’s Genocide”, THE QUINT, (18 Feb 2020)



 [5] ibid.

[6][6] Taha Amin Mazumder, “Nellie 1983 Revisited: Victims Say They Had Been Barricaded for 6 Months Before the Massacre”, News Click, (24 Feb 2019)


 [8] Anjuman Ara Begum and Diganta Sharma, “Who is responsible for Nellie massacre?”,, (February 20, 2009)

 [9] ibid.


  1. May Allah show us the righteous path and lead us to act on the appropriate Islamic belief. Majority don’t have any idea of the solution for the shortcomings we are facing since the state has gone but may Allah bless us to revive it again.

  2. Our team visited Assam at that time . One youth who accompanied us told that he killed about 100 people including small kids with his long nife. He was narrating the he committed with jubilantly that there was no signs of repent but he was proud of it . ..Dr.M.F.Gopinath,Senior Cardiologist

  3. Muslims have been the cannon fodder and sacrificial lambs for successive political establishments since independence… Hyderabad, Jammu, Nellie…. And dozens more…
    More than 2million innocent lives sacrificed

  4. Ethnic cleansing is a clear cut part of RSS ageda but the sad part is that the Congress also proved itself a main tool of conspiracy against Muslims

  5. A prophetic saying goes, if one dies in a state where he has never ever, even thought of Jihad, has died a hypocrite.
    If the State doesn’t allow us to prepare physically, financially or socially who is preventing us to prepare ourselves mentally, morally and spiritually? Point is our Ummah, scholars and mediocre alike are reluctant to even discuss it? How many readers honestly knew of this Hadith?

  6. I strongly believe Mughals/Muslim rulers are the main reason for All this situation currently Indian Muslims and backward people are facing in India. Mughals ruled Indian continent almost for 600 years, out of which around 200 years unanimously. They could have eliminate backward discrimination, and could have implemented better future and prospectus for Indian people. Instead, they were just busy in dealing internal problems, ex, each time a ruler died, a war of succession between the brothers for the throne started, some time father and son/daughters, many of them ignored Islamic teachings. The current face of India is totally different today if they could have ruled the kingdom unitedly following Islamic values, and by implementing strategies against outside enemies. I like to say ‘era of hostility’ instead ‘Mughal era’.


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