Even as victims of the recent clashes between the Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers in Assam languish in sordid conditions in various relief camps, parts of Assam are witnessing what can be called a second innings in the Assam agitation against ‘illegal immigrants from Bangladesh’.Assam Jatiyabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and the All Assam Students Union(AASU) have launched a massive drive demanding immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants and a quick update of the National Register of Citizens.
“In fact, a report by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) warned that there is a possibility that Muslims in the Bodo districts of Assam will turn “militant,” influenced by jihadi outfits from across India, unless their security is ensured by the State government.”
Xenophobia runs deep in Assam and the state lies polarised along communal lines. While the BJP alleged that illegal immigration from Bangladesh was responsible for ethnic and communal discord and asked the government to seal its border with the neighbouring country, an unknown group also launched an economic blockade against the so-called immigrants from Bangladesh. Posters have been put up in parts of the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) by unknown groups saying: “Do not buy anything from Bangladeshis. Do not engage Bangladeshis in any kind of work or else it will lead (to) fine up to Rs 10,000/.” But the moot question here is how can one identify a Bangladeshi and whether such economic sanctions will yield any outcome.
In the aftermath of the violence, there have been many developments including Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the victims in relief camps as well as the arrest of Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) MLA Pradeep Brahma, for his alleged involvement in the recent violence in Assam and the eventual bail being granted to him by the Gauhati high court.
In fact, a report by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) warned that there is a possibility that Muslims in the Bodo districts of Assam will turn “militant,” influenced by jihadi outfits from across India, unless their security is ensured by the State government. The report was prepared after it visited the conflict-torn districts in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) and Dhubri district in Assam.
Confirming allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the Bodos, the NCM report warned Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi: “Bodos need to be told firmly that they cannot under any circumstances engineer a mass exodus of the non-Bodos and that they would never get statehood this way.” Almost in cyclical fashion, clashes have broken out at regular intervals between Bodos and non-Bodo communities, like the adivasis and the Muslim population. In May ’96, a vicious adivasi-Bodo conflict was sparked off with the killing of three Bodo girls, allegedly by the Santhals. It continued till 1998. A major clash between the present participants, Bodos and the Muslim settlers, took place earlier in 1993-94. In 1994, a violent battle between the two left some 100 dead and over 60,000 homeless.
Allegations and counter-allegations go on. Interestingly, talking about the demographic changes, Tarun Gogoi said in a television interview that Muslims are outnumbering Hindus in Assam, not because of the increase in illegal migration from Bangladesh but because Muslims are illiterate and bear more children.
In a positive sign, a new organisation named MY-FACTS (Muslim Youths – Forum Against Communalism, Terrorism and Sedition) has come up where educated Muslim youth are striving to uphold the unity and integrity of the nation. This group feels that there is an acute and criminal lack of community leaders with secular and scientific temperament. “The present so-called leaders (political and religious) have largely failed because they either lack Islamic knowledge or are ill-educated about ground realities. They have in fact played up ethnic & sectarian affiliations leading to ‘diversity in unity’ instead of ‘unity in diversity’. We will strive to uplift the socio-economic condition of the Muslims,” says Burhanuddin Choudhury, a medical doctor and a member of the Forum. The organisation also aims to promote and sustain an intellectual base (virtual leadership) for the community. They want to create a congenial atmosphere for scientific dialogue between divergent school of views and opinions.
Meanwhile, the people from the region who had fled from various metro cities like Mumbai and Bangalore are slowly returning. The state government is also ensuring their smooth return by paying for their train tickets and arranging for a special train for them.
Various peace building measures are being undertaken by different organisations and authorities are trying to ensure that people manage to return to their homes. However, quick fix measures will, by no means, guarantee that the violence in Bodoland will not return.