The idea that Muslims in Assam are “Bangladeshi immigrants” is false. As we mentioned in a previous article the last time anti-Muslim violence reared its ugly head in Assam:
“Muslims started to settle in Assam as early as the 13th century, and Indian census data actually indicates that there is less net immigration to the state, with more people leaving than coming! Right-wing Indian politicians are calling for solutions similar to those on display in Myanmar, and Muslim bashing is at a dangerously high level.”
(Reuters) – India deployed troops in Assam on Saturday after 31 Muslims were gunned down in three days of what police said were attacks by tribal militants who resent the presence of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
The unrest in the tea-growing state comes towards the end of a marathon election across India that has heightened ethnic and religious divisions and which the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks set to win.
Security forces found the bodies of nine people with bullet wounds on Saturday, six of them women and children, the third day of violence that police have blamed on Bodo tribesmen attacking Muslim settlers as punishment for opposing their candidate in the election to the Indian parliament.
Bodo people are followers of the local Bathouist religion.
“We are scared to live in our village, unless security is provided by the government,” said Anwar Islam, a Muslim who had come to buy food in Barama, a town about 30 km (20 miles) from the villages in the Baksa district where the violence erupted on Thursday and Friday.
He said men armed with rifles had come to his village, Masalpur, on bicycles and had then fired indiscriminately and set huts on fire.
Bodo representatives say many of the Muslims in Assam are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who encroach on ancestral Bodo lands. In 2012, clashes erupted in which dozens of people were killed and 400,000 fled their homes.
In addition to that violence, Assam has a history of sectarian strife and armed groups fighting for greater autonomy or secession from India.
MODI FACES CRITICISM
Election candidates, including the BJP’s Narendra Modi, the front-runner for prime minister, have been calling for tighter border controls.
On Saturday, the ruling Congress party blamed Modi of using divisive rhetoric. “Modi is a model of dividing India,” said Law Minister Kapil Sibal.
Modi said last week that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the nearby state of West Bengal should have their “bags packed” in case he came to power, accusing the state government of being too soft.
“Modi should have been more responsible in his utterances,” said Sabyasachi Basu Roy Chowdhury, a political science professor at Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.
“His words can be very damaging since, even if we consider that Bangladeshis are living here illegally, there is a question of human rights too.”