There have been clashes in the Indian state of Assam in which Muslims have had their houses burned down and some have been hacked to death. Many reports state that the violence began when 4 Bodos were allegedly killed by Muslims on July, 20 (h/t: Hassan). In actuality the issue is far more complex, the recent violence began in May,
Trouble started on May 29 with the Muslim youth group, the All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union, protesting against the removal of a signboard from a mosque, allegedly illegally built on a forest area. The local Bodoland Territorial Council administration prevented the protesters from forcing shops and offices to close, which resulted in a fracas and injuries to some people. On July 6, two Muslim youths were killed by unidentified gunmen in Kokrajhar district.
Thirteen days later, on July 19, two more Muslim youths, leaders of the ABMSU, were killed in the same district. On July 20, four former Bodo Liberation Tigers cadres were killed by a Muslim mob. The incident sparked off a series of attacks and counter-attacks the same night and later, blew up into full-scale conflict. Rioters indulged in both pre-planned as well as opportunistic violence- killing, burning and ransacking. Factors rooted in politics and demography provide explanations for the recent flare up.
Over 200,000 mostly Muslims have fled their homes. Is it curious that the religion of the Muslims is the main identifier of who they are? Isn’t it also curious that reports are stating that the violence was sparked off the by killing of the four Bodo militiamen? It is unfortunate that a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of this complex issue, involving factors of demography, ethnicity and immigration have been reduced to a battle between the Bodos and “Muslims.” It feeds many false Islamophobic narratives, as most of the comment sections of these reports, such as the one on the Huffington Post have been reduced to blaming “Islam” for the violence.
BIJNI, India — Indian authorities on Thursday rushed more troops to quell ethnic violence in a remote northeastern state where dozens of people have been killed over the past week and villagers are frightened to return to their burned-out homes.
Clashes between members of the ethnic Bodo community and Muslim settlers in Assam state have left 42 people dead and 13 others missing, state officials said. Six of the 42 were killed by security forces, who were given a mandate Tuesday to shoot rioters on sight.
The killing of four Bodo men last week sparked off violent attacks by Bodo tribespeople on Muslim villages.
Hundreds of homes were torched and more than 200,000 people fled their homes for relief camps set up in schools and government buildings.
On Thursday, Assam’s Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi met with Bodo and Muslim leaders in an effort to defuse tensions and restore peace, while the federal government ordered more troops to be sent to the three worst-hit districts, Kokrajhar, Dibrugarh and Chirang.
A curfew has helped curtail the violence, but local officials said the situation remains tense. Police reported sporadic violence in Chirang as armed bands of Bodo youth roamed the deserted villages.
Soldiers have orders to shoot to kill arsonists and a 24-hour curfew is in place, said G. D. Tripathi, Assam’s home secretary.
There are already 6,000 army and paramilitary soldiers on the ground. They have marched through towns and villages in a show of force to give residents confidence to return to their homes.
Thousands of frightened villagers are crammed into about 125 relief camps hastily set up by local administrators.
Each day there is a scramble for limited water and food. Harried officials are trying to provide food, clothes and mattresses for the streams of people who have lost all their possessions.
Among them is a dazed-looking Laily Begum, a mother of three small children. On Sunday, Begum’s Muslim husband was hacked to death by sword-wielding attackers near the town of Bijni in Chirang.
“I don’t know if I should be mourning my husband or fighting for food for my children,” she cries, tears snaking down her face.
Begum fled with her children and from a distance saw the attackers repeatedly stabbing her husband, Mohammad Hasen Ali. Her neighbors told her his body had been thrown into a river.
On Thursday, the Assam government announced that 600,000 rupees ($11,000) would be paid as compensation to the families of those killed.
[Edit and Update: It must be pointed out that Muslims have lived in Assam for many centuries, going back to the 13th century (h/t: Indian Muslim).
Muslims have been part of Assam since early thirteenth century. The migration of Bengali-speakers, both Hindus and Muslims, into Assam started in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century as a British policy to find people for filling government jobs and a majority of them came as labourers for tea plantation and jute cultivation.
Overlooking these historical migrations, these “insider experts” want to put all Bangla-speaking Muslim in the category of Illegal migrations or simply Bangladeshis. Even if we take the recent census data, the numbers do not show any signs of huge influx of Muslims into Assam. In 1951, Muslims were 26.60% of the state population while in 2001 their population share was 30.90%. The rate of growth is slower than Muslims growth in the rest of India, which will suggest that Muslims are leaving the state.]