The Massacre of Muslims in Assam
India's north-eastern state of Assam is once again in focus due to brutal killing of 31 Muslims during the first week of May 2014. The killings are a result of conflict between Bodos and the Muslims of Assam. Indian governmenthas deployed troopsbut violence still continues. This is the third major wave of violence of Bodos against the Muslim population of Assam. The ones before this happened in 2008 and 2012. In August 2012,more than 40 Muslims reported dead and over 1.5 lakh displaced in a week.
BJP has alleged the ruling Congress party for the violence. Ravi Shankar one of the leader of BJP opines, “what is happening in Assam is because of the vote-bank politics of Congress,” he adds, that adequate and timely steps have not been taken by the Assam Government and the Centre after two similar episodes earlier’’.The BJP has also questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha, as to what he had done in the last 10 years to ensure effective law & order in Assam which has seen repeated incidents of clashes between Bodos and Muslims.
Congress Law Minister KapilSabil on the other hand has blamed Modi of using divisive rhetoric to instigate this violence against Muslims. The BJP's NarendraModi, the front-runner for prime minister, said last week that Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh should have their "bags packed" in case he came to power.KapilSibal chose to take a swipe at Modi, saying Modi stands for the ‘Model of Dividing India’. He accused BJP leadership of playing the ‘communal card’ to garner votes.But this seems to be a usual game of India politicians getting as much mileage from the dead and the displaced Muslims.
Today’s Assam state is the successor to the much larger province that included the huge Muslim-majority district of Sylhet, much of it is now in Bangladesh. When Sylhet was a part of Assam before Partition, Muslims were an important contending power bloc.Sylhet was also partitioned in 1947 on the basis of a referendum.The largely HinduCongressites in Assam did not even campaign seriously for the referendum, for they were only too happy to see Sylhet go, so that they could have a complete grip over the legislature minus the Sylheti Muslim threat to power.
Assam during the British rule and after the partition of India, received the bulk of Bengali, Bihari Muslims and Nepali legal migrants in search of work: tea garden workers, Muslim peasants, British India government employees. A wide agitation against Muslim and other immigrants started in 1960, spearheaded by Hindu students from Gauhati University. Again in 1972, after the administrative reogranisation of the Northeast of India, anti- Muslim movement grew with the increasingly violent rejection of the Muslim migrants.Then, in July 1979, the All Assam Students’ Union, fully backed by the Indian political elite, launched a widespread campaign which rapidly turned violent against Muslims. The “Assam Movement” started in order to stop the Muslim migrants to participate in Assam’s electoral process. It soon became a wider agitation demanding the detection and deportation of migrant Muslims from Assam.The worst violence prompted by such tensions erupted during a controversial election in February 1983 – nearly 3,000 people were left dead in that episode.Indian government had to declare the President’s Rule in Assam in December 1979 and three more times between 1979 and 1983.The “Assam Movement” lasted six years (1979-85) until an accord was reached between the central government under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi in 1985.
A second stream of radical violence against Muslims appeared in Assam with the emergence of the Bodo movement. The Bodos,is a Hindu tribal sub-group, settled in the area between the Brahmaputra Valley and the Himalayas (North-West of Assam).By the mid-1980s, under the aegis of BodofaUpendranath Brahma, the movement turned radical with the establishment of the Bodo Security Force (BSF) in October 1986. Violent actions against Muslims as well as Assamese-speaking political leaders were launched by the BSF while the armed-wing of the ABSU, the Bodo Volunteers Force (BVF), simultaneously started a wide-ranging violent campaign against Muslims.
In Kokrajhar, the Bodo heartland, Muslim migrants are regularly attacked by Bodo separatist rebels and this periodically erupts into full-scale riots. More than 100 Muslim migrants were killed in one such raid at Bansbari, a makeshift camp for displaced Muslims in 1993.The Bodos now have an autonomous territorial council which one of their parties, the Bodoland People's Front (BPF), controls. The Muslims and their descendants have also become more assertive with the formation of the Assam United Democratic Front which seeks to protect the rights of minorities and their periodic ousting from settlements through violence. The Front, led by a charismatic religious leader MaulanaBadruddinAjmal, has increased its tally in the state legislature over the last two state elections.
Truly, Assam has now become an area of violence, insecurity, extortion and repression. The ongoing ethnic insurgencies have turned criminal, mainly due to the militarisation of the region by the Indian armed forces enjoying special ‘rights’ and extraordinary powers.Clashes between the Hindu Bodo tribes and the Muslims are common, with the military backing theBodo tribes. Human rights violations of the worst kind, including killings, rapes, village-burnings and forced conversions, have happened, aided and abetted by the state of India.