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India: Ethnic Clashes in Assam

Fighting between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers in the Indian State of Assam killed at least 32 people and wounded many more. The trouble started on the night of Friday 20 July, 2012, when unidentified men killed four youths in Kokrajhar district, which is dominated by Bodos.

In retaliation, armed Bodos attacked Muslims and burnt their villages, suspecting them to be behind the killings. According to news sources Indian paramilitary forces have opened fire on rioters and a number of people have been killed by them.

About 70,000 villagers of Chirang, Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Udalguri and Sonitpur have fled their homes since the violence started and taken shelter in relief camps. At least 60 villages belonging to both Bodos and Muslims in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts were ransacked or burned.

Around 20,000 passengers were stranded on trains in Assam region as 21 trains had been cancelled because the protesters occupied the tracks and threw stones at the trains.

Homes burn in the Barmanpara village in the Kokrajhar district, about 230 kms from Guwahati, the capital of the state of Assam. Image by Aman. Copyright Demotix (24/7/2012)

Homes burn in the Barmanpara village in the Kokrajhar district, about 230 kms from Guwahati, the capital of the state of Assam. Image by Aman. Copyright Demotix (24/7/2012)

The Bodos constitute 5% of the total population of the state while Muslims constitute nearly 33% of the population. Bodos are seeking a separate political identity, which range from autonomy to separate state and even sovereignty.

15.64 per cent of the 20.33 million population in Assam are from tribes including Bodo, Mising, Rabha, Sonowal, Lalung (Tiwa), Deori and Thengal (Mech). Assam has three autonomous councils under the Sixth Schedule and several other groups are demanding their own autonomous councils under the same status.

The opposition BJP party blamed “illegal immigrants” for the violence and termed it communal. However the Assam police chief mentioned that these clashes are more ethnic than communal. According to him the clash is between the Bodo tribe and the non-minority groups, who are mostly Muslims whose ancestors settled in the region 40, 50 or 60 years ago.

Robbie S writes:

Both the government of Assam and of India need to continually acknowledge that this violence is beyond communal identities, it is rooted in the chronic underdevelopment of northeastern India.

Hisham Barbhuiya at Youth Ki Awaaz looks at the myth of “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants” in Assam, who are time and again blamed for any such incident. The blogger writes:

During the British period, Muslims from East Bengal districts of Mymensingh and Rangpur were brought in to cultivate lands in the districts of lower Assam. They were settled in the ‘char’ areas or the riverine districts and the surrounding areas of Dhubri, Barpeta, Goalpara and Nagaoan. Many of them later integrated into the Assamese culture and were called the “new Assamese”.

Villagers flee their homes in the Chirang district, Assam. Image by Aman. Copyright Demotix (24/7/2012)

Villagers flee their homes in the Chirang district, Assam. Image by Aman. Copyright Demotix (24/7/2012)

Arunangshuwrites:

The Bodoland agitations are always violent and the ethnic rivalries are renewed in streams of blood and fire. One wonders why people become so violent and why they remain so much underdeveloped.Its a pity really because the entire Northeast is so beautiful.

Here are some of the Tweet reactions:

@arpitade: Bloodbath, misery and fear on both sides. Who is winning here? Not humanity for sure :-( #Fury #AssamRiots http://t.co/xBUvSURU

@nitinchatterjee: And I can't fathom as to why it's not in the headlines.”@timesofindia: Assam riots toll rises to 32; more than 70,000 flee homes”

@supreetha15: Ask all the media persons you so follow: Why no Assam??? Tag them, pin them down. Show them the Social Power. @janlokpal Let truth prevail.

15 comments

  • Kdpgrahi

    Illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is the main cause of such repeated riots

  • Hnin Lay

    Again? in somewhere else? And people start to name native local ethnics as riot attackers? Something has to be wrong with all other people such as Bodo & Rakhine who has been living in their own land peacefully or something has to be totally wrong with those Muslims settlers (Btw, this name is way more beautiful than Rohingya) that are attracting huge attention from the international community with limited insider knowledge. 

  • Bharatrajupt

    Failure of Congress, Sonia Ghandhi should be kicked out of this country.

    • Kaluramkahar

      ur not looking at the international arena Sonia Gandhi can only save the India and like u people always try to disintegrate the nation but u traitor will not success anyway    

  • DEVONECO

    India is too big and heavily over-populated to continue as a single Nation and needs to be disintegrated into self-determination by the separate ethnic groups that are a majority in the respective states. For example Tamil Nadu – which boasts one of the largest single ethnic groups in India, the Tamils – must break away from mainland India and establish a separate Tamil state so that ALL Tamils who need to be identified as a separate Nation can finally have their Tamil Homeland in their original domain. 

    • Kazmis

       India will ultimately disintegrate into several states, it is the requirement of the time. I agree with your views, however this type of trouble is destined for south east Asia, middle east etc for new world order. You will soon see the Shia Sunni big fight in whole region including Iran & Pakistan, and surrounding countries including India.

  • @Hnin Lay stereotyping is the main cause behind such hatred. In both cases the victims who took refuge are the so called settlers as they are being purged from their habitats. Its like amputation of an arm for a minor infection. Illegal immigration is a larger problem which should not be tackled with violence and threat.  Historical migration of human population started thousands of years ago and its a natural phenomenon we now try to restrict with visas and borders. If these people had better option they would have taken it instead of living under intimidation and neglect. Territorial instincts are so primitive that should not be encouraged in modern civilization. 

  • Wunnamaungoo

    It is the same for riots in Myamar (Burma). Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have been making problems with ethnic Buddhist in western Myanmar. But, sadly, the world see us differently. In Assam, Bengali are seen as rioters and problem makers. In Burma, they are seen as depressed minority.  

    • ziaush shams

      Please dont try to compare the Assam issue with the Arakan issue for India and Burma don’t have an iota of similar locus standi. While India is a democratic and civilized country, Burma is a fascist country run by military generals. The generals, by using military force, refrained Suu Kyi to form civilian government even after winning a landslide victory by her party. They (the generals), under the barrel of a gun,illegally enacted a so called Citizens Act in 1982 and  have made the lives of about a million of their own citizen miserable, are now trying to deport these people. From journalistic reports we have learned that the Generals are engaged in state sponsored terrorism, while in the process they have turned Burma into their personal real estates. It appears that you either belong to the present-day plunderes or their benificiary. If not, please try to strengthen the hands of sane people of your country and save the ordinary people of Burma from utter distruction.

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