Written by Sanjeev Kulkarni, GEI Contributor
The death toll in the ongoing ethnic clash between Bodo and Bengali speaking Muslims in the Bodo heartland in Kokrajhar district of Assam since Friday, rose to 25. According to the Times of India more than 50, 000 people belonging to both of the communities have been affected in the spate of violence so far. The population of Bodos, is just over five per cent of the total population of the state while Muslims constitute nearly 33 per cent. According to Wikipedia, the bodo people are an indiginous tribe of Northeast India and largely practice the Hindu religion (about 90%). A lttle less than 10% are Christian.
The picture shows a bodo girl dancing. Click on picture for large image of traditional dance group.
Assam is in North East India, close to China, Mynamar and Bangladesh. During the 1971 War there was heavy refugee influx from erstwhile East Pakistan. After East Pakistan became Bangladesh the mostly Muslim refugees never went back. Continuing illegal immigration from Bangladesh has compounded the the problem.
A veteran local politician told Reuters that:
“Rioting between Bodo tribespeople and Muslim settlers has raged for days. The security forces were silent spectators when village after village was burnt down,"
The Bodos have been fighting for their existence and according to Wikipedia.
"They led a gory struggle in the name of self-determination in late 80's under the leadership of Upendra Nath Brahma, who is now regarded as the Father of the Bodos (Bodo-Fa). After a decade of long agitation, the Bodos have been granted the Bodoland Territorial Council(BTC), an autonomous administrative body that has within its jurisdiction the present district of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Udalguri and Baksa. The movement for autonomy was headed by the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), an outfit believed to have undertaken many extremist activities in bodo dominated areas. The BSF, Boro Security Force, an underground organization of the bodos, now known as NDFB, National Democratic Front of Bodoland, is still involved in insurgency. Following the establishment of the BTC, the BLT have come overground."
But systematic exploitation of tribals and the Muslim immigration from Bangladesh slowly converted the region into a cauldron and the bodo have become a minority in their ancestral homeland.
As usual the phlegmatic Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is "concerned" and has instructed the Chief Minister to monitor the situation. It is not that the Government is unaware of the explosive Molotov cocktail of heavy immigration from Bangladesh, local politicians cynical exploitation of vote banks and trampling of local Bodo tribals. A report by Dr. Namrata Goswami of Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, has identified the issues. The report has identified political, economic, social and security issues. Top of the list are political issues. The report recommends:
1. Discourage ‘vote bank’ politics by consistent public writings and propaganda against it.
2. Vigilant media coverage of election patterns and voter increases in Assam based on census data analysis.
3. Effective profiling of politicians in Assam to check corruption in political processes
4. Vigilant monitoring of Assam’s voter list by a ‘special body’ constituted by the Election Commission of India.
5. Keep a vigilant check on the linkage between local politicians and insurgent leaders by an outside body.
Author's comment: But like many of the issues facing India it is not that solutions are unknown. It is just that cynical politics saps the inner vitals of what could be a really vibrant economy. Unfortunately, after the present mindless violence dies down, it will be business as usual
- India struggles to control deadly Assam riots, hamlets razed: Reuters
- Violence engulfs Assam, Manmohan tells CM to monitor situation: The Times Of India
- Bangladeshi Illegal Migration into Assam: Issues and Concerns from the Field: Institute of Defence Studies: New Delhi
- Bodos: Wiki