The fresh communal riot in India last week, this time in the eastern state of Assam left about 100 people killed. Four lakh people fled homes to take refuge in schools and other places. Houses were plundered and set on fire. The victims, as usual, were mostly Muslims. It is obvious that the communal disturbances in secular India have wounded the sentiment of the three neighbouring Muslim countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Maldives. Secularism in India is a façade. In fact, communalism is deeply rooted in the cast-ridden Indian society. The massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, demolition of centuries old Babri Mosque, killing of Christians in central India still reminded the horrors of communal atrocity. Only months ago, Allahabad witnessed a communal riot.
Although the incidents took place close to the Sylhet border, there was no reprisal in Bangladesh. Here the people have religious tolerance and live in complete harmony with minority communities. Details of the situation of riot torn three or four districts of Assam were not known. Borders were sealed by security forces of both sides to check infiltration. Scanty report was given by international news agencies. Al Jazeera TV channel showed footage of a couple of refugee camps. Hundreds of men and women, young and old crammed in a village school in Kokrajhar district. The victims narrating their woes said their houses were looted before setting on fire. Hunger and fear stalked their faces. Absence of water and sanitary facilities may cause health hazards. An elderly inmate of the refugee camp told the TV crews that they came under sudden attack with lethal weapons, reasons not known to them. There was no police or paramilitary forces to protect them. International wire services reported that the riot was triggered by a group of Bodo ethnic community shooting down two student leaders of Muslim settlers in a long running dispute over access to land.
The army and paramilitary troops in addition to state police remained deployed in Assam to fight a number of secessionist groups and Maoist insurgency that spread in and the adjoining states. The riot could be avoided with prompt action on the part of the government. Nothing would happen if the army personnel swung into action and stood in between the rioters. The carnage continued for three days before the army was asked to control the situation only after Muslim MPs of the state flew to Delhi and pleaded for it. JUD squarely blamed the federal home minister and state chief minister for not taking timely action and demanded their resignation.
In the blame game, the Congress accused the opposition BJP for inciting the Bodo community and its activists against the Muslim settlers. BJP had led the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and directly involved in Gujarat massacre in which about 2,000 Muslims were killed. Clearly, the administration had support behind the BJP actions. The daily Sentinel of Guwahati had quoted BJP’s central leader Sushma Sawaraj saying two years ago “if Bangladeshis staying in Assam illegally are to be deported, a movement like Assam agitation is needed, and if the youths of the state are ready for such agitation, BJP will extend its helping hand.”
How can the settlers be Bangladeshis? Assam with many resources had been a state of jungles with scarce population. Muslims, and not only Muslims but also Hindus had migrated from different parts before and after partition of India and settled in the state. They are holding national identity card and regularly take part or cast votes in elections to local bodies, state legislature and national parliament. Hindu settlers also came under attacks in occasional movement launched against non-Assamese – ‘Assam for Assamese’. ULFA was the pioneer of such movement.
It is hoped that India will take into consideration of the deep concern of the Muslims across the world as it has demonstrated the anxiety and concern for the plight of Tamils of Sri Lanka. In fact, New Delhi mounted pressure on Colombo for providing autonomy to the Tamil populated northern province of Jaffna. Tamils had supported and assisted the LTTE secessionist fighters in the decade long war that ended three years ago. India’s Tamil Nadu state government had even asked New Delhi for military action against Sri Lanka to secure the extraordinary rights for the Tamils. New Delhi has not stopped at that. Being a member of UN human rights body, it orchestrated drawing charges of violation of human rights against Sri Lanka.
BY : Shamsuddin Ahmed.