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Why the Assam situation needs tactful handling

July 27, 2012 15:30 IST

Riots in Kokrajhar have resulted in the death of 45 persons and about two lakh people displaced so far. Various reasons have been pointed out for these violence, ranging from illegal immigration to local issues. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

The trouble began on July 6, when two Muslim youth were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Kokrajhar. Two weeks later, on July 20, two more persons were injured by unidentified gunmen in the same district. A day later, on July 20, four Bodo youth, believed to be former militants of the Bodo Liberation Tigers, were hacked to death by a mob at Joypur village, triggering off clashes that have gone out of control in the past one week.

The government has said that the riots in Assam is a local issue. Former Union home secretary GK Pillai assertsĀ that it is an issue that is local in nature, and needs local leaders to sit across the table and sort it out.

The fight between the indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers in Kokrajhar could well erupt yet again if the issue is not sorted out amicably, sources in the Intelligence Bureau tellĀ "It is not an international issue and should be dealt by the leaders within the state," a source points out.

Tensions between Bodos and Muslim settlers from Bangladesh have been simmering for long. But experts say the issue is not communal in nature.

After India's Independence in 1947, Muslim settlers from East Bengal started coming into this area, seeking a better livelihood. Over time, the Muslim population in the area grew, and in the process the migrants procured land from the Bodos. This led to a general feeling among Bodos that they were being outnumbered by Muslims.

Since then, the fight has had more to do with the control of land than over religion, sources point out.

Pillai points out that the new immigrants issue is not the reason for the latest round of violence. "This is mainly because there are no new immigrants. Bangladeshis have not been coming into Assam, but have been settling in other states. Hence, that issue of new illegal immigrants is a saturated one," he points out.

Pillai says the handling of this issue has been slack. Clashes of this nature have been on the rise since the 1990s, and experts feel that the local leaders need to step in and sort out this issue, failing which we will see many more such clashes in the days to come.

Vicky Nanjappa