0 comments   |     by Lisa

In the last one week we have witnessed the tragedy of nearly 200,000 people belonging to the Bodo and the Muslim communities, being forced to flee from their homes and villages. Currently they stand internally displaced, and are scarred and traumatized. Official figures state that around 41 people have lost their lives so far, while unofficial estimates from the grounds are much higher. More than 400 villages have been torched down until now. This is not the first time that such conflict has occurred in this area. Various ethnic groups inhabiting the area, like the Koch-Rajbongshis, Santhalis, Oraons, Mundas, Bodos, religious minority community (Muslims), mainstream Assamese and others have from time to time been engulfed in cross-ethnic tensions and conflicts. We are also aware that abductions, extortions and sporadic killings (for both personal business rivalries and political gains) have been infesting these areas for a long time.

We understand that the eruption of this conflict is not ‘spontaneous’. Tensions between different communities have been prevailing, primarily over the questions of access to available resources. We understand that the Assam Government, the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) administration and the Central Government were very much in knowledge of the simmering tensions in this area. We believe that the lack of any action in abating pre-existing tensions has actively contributed in escalating the scale of violence. The massive spree of arson, violence and killings would not be possible without the knowing compliance of the state.

This ongoing conflict has already inflicted irreparable damages. While lives and livelihoods have been lost, it has created an atmosphere of suspicion, mistrust, fear and hostility among the people inhabiting the four districts, especially among the Bodos and the Muslims in this context. The ominous possibility is that the psychosocial impact of this event will subsequently define the inter-ethnic relations among the population inhabiting these areas and beyond as well. The society should have the will to understand that the dent done could be so profound that it will cease to matter that this entire episode of mayhem is embedded in the machinations of various groups and state apparatuses that hold strong vested interests in instigating this kind of conflict.

Both the Bodo and the Muslim population of this area have historically been at the margins of the ‘Assamese society’. However the society at large and a section of the Assamese media as well as national media have been tendentiously pointing finger at ‘illegal’ immigration from Bangladesh as the root cause of this violence. We understand that these kinds of conflicts do not arise out of simple causalities. It is important for all of us that we steer clear from raising alarm bells of xenophobia.

We condemn the use of this moment of violence and mayhem by various groups with vested interests to drive home the longstanding demand of deporting Bangladeshi immigrants. We strongly condemn all acts of violence and destruction of human lives as a means for furthering any political interests.

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