The Killing Fields of Assam
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam on the continuing bloodshed in Assam and why it still remains out of control.
As I am writing this piece, I get the news through the morning papers that violence has erupted once again in Assam after a lull of a few days. Four more people have been killed, still more have been driven out of their homes.
The number of people forced to be internal refugees in the districts surrounding Kokrajhar (and within Kokrajhar itself) has started touching half a million. This is ethnic cleansing in the classical, well-understood sense. The number of deaths, officially, is 75, but unofficial estimates put it at 300. Almost 90 percent of the victims, as usual, happen to be Muslims.
Meanwhile, BJP has been building up the case that trouble makers from Bangladesh have been fomenting violence. This is their line from Day One. L K Advani visited the area only to lend support to the already known party line.
The fact, however, is that Assam does not need Bangladeshis to come in and create trouble. Already there is a lot of ethnic resentment which sometimes erupts in clashes between groups. In the past non-Bodo, non-Muslim tribals have been driven out in large numbers from the same areas following massive bloodletting.
Both the chief minister Tarun Gogoi and Central authorities have clearly denied any Bangladeshi hand in the present spate of violence. Gogoi has said the BJP has been fishing in troubled waters.
The guilt and inefficiency of Gogoi will not be washed away by merely pointing at BJP, which is always there to harm and demonise Muslims at every opportunity. This party is in the habit of simplifying the most complex issues into a Hindu-Muslim equation.
Despite the fact that there are a lot of ethnic rivalries and political manipulation involved the net result is that among the victims most are Muslims.
A major contributor to the unsettling situation in Assam is the Bodo Council itself, which does not take into account the aspirations of non-Bodos, who constitute 33 percent of the population in the Council area.
All said and done, the immediate task is to restore peace, rehabilitate the victims, look after their daily needs, prevent the outbreak of epidemics in the camps, treat the wounded and the sick, and compensate them for their losses.
Soon after the violence stops and life comes to normal, mid-term and long-term issues have to addressed on a priority. g