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Why recurrence of violence in Assam is worrisome

August 28, 2012 09:29 IST

The recurrence of violence in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District Council (BTC) area of Assam during the last few days despite heavy deployment of forces and continued imposition of night curfew has proved that the hatred between the two communities -- involved in the clashes that erupted on July 21 last -- has run deeper than realised by the political leadership.

It appears that the confidence building measures involving the leaders of both Bodo and Muslim communities at the local level have been grossly insufficient. As such, despite setting up of police pickets in vulnerable villages, over two lakh violence-displaced people are still lodged in scores of relief camps.

The BTC, a fruit of the Bodo peace accord of 2003, was formed to provide autonomy to the Bodo tribe people comprising just about 30 per cent of the total population in the BTC area. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the BTC authority has no responsibility towards welfare of about 70 per cent non-Bodos, including people from the religious minorities living in the area.

There have been widespread allegations that the BTC authorities have been by and large indifferent towards the welfare and protection of rights of the non-Bodos living in the area that has led to a social divide.

Among the non-Bodos, Muslims are in largest numbers in the area.

Since non-tribal people can no longer acquire land in the BTC as per the Bodo peace accord, the Muslims have been trying to set up new settlements occupying government and forest land in the area much to the chagrin of Bodos and the BTC authorities.

The situation has come to such a position that both Bodos and Muslims have been living in an atmosphere of mistrust for years. There have been clashes between the two communities in the past as well, but still the Assam government and the BTC authorities did not try to explore ways to ensure peaceful co-existence of both the communities, because the political parties involved are were concerned about the equation of vote banks than the social harmony.

It became obvious when Muslim leaders like Badruddin Ajmol, the leader and MP of the All India United Democratic Front, demanded for the dissolution of BTC and review of the peace accord in the wake of the riot.

Similarly, Bodo People's Front, the ruling party in the BTC, has maintained that violence-displaced people should be rehabilitated only after verification of their Indian citizenship on the basis of whether they own land in the BTC or whether their names were enlisted in the electoral roll.

The BPF has claimed that many illegal migrants from Bangladesh have taken shelter in relief camps during the riot to avail generous rehabilitation schemes announced by the government.

Some other political parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies, which hardly have any stake in the BTC, are now out to fish in the troubled waters and that has contributed to fan the inter-community hatred.

The BJP is attacking the ruling Congress and the AIUDF for trying to consolidate their 'vote bank'.

The Assam government has engaged a team of five ministers to the BTC to take whatever measures possible to bring back normalcy to the area, but the fresh incidents of violence targeting religious minority people by some organised group of miscreants, who are using fire arms and even grenades, have given a complicated turn for the worse in the situation.

Minority organisations like the All Bodoland Minority Students' Union and the All Assam Minority Students' Union (AMSU) have called for resignation of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi over his failure to quell the fire of communal hatred in the BTC and seize all the illegal firearms.

On the other hand, Gogoi has stated that there are anti-India fundamentalist forces which are out to fan the fire in the BTC.

The All Bodo Students' Union and other frontline Bodo organisations like Bodo Women Justice Forum have demanded arrest of AIUDF leader Badaruddin Ajmol for trying to communalise the clashes terming the Bodo-Muslim riot an organised attack on Muslims in the state.

All the Bodo organisations are peeved at the arrest of BPF MLA Pradeep Brahma for his alleged role in inciting mob violence in the BTC during the riot.

Now, the events have taken a serious turn for the worse with miscreants using grenades and fire arms in launching attack on human settlements as happened at Fakiragram on Monday night.

There are radical elements in both the communities who will try to foment the inter-community hatred at this juncture to implement their vested designs.

Recurrence of riots in Assam has proved beyond doubt that there has been no political will on part of the leadership, both in the BTC and Dispur, to find a long-term solution for neutralisation of the hatred and mistrust prevailing between the two communities.

The BTC area will remain a powder keg till a long term solution is not found out to make the two communities live in peace.

The government should also have to assure the Bodos about its sincerity to stop illegal migration from Bangladesh through the porous borders in western Assam, which, the Bodos feel, have jeopardised the population pattern in the BTC area.

K Anurag in Guwahati