Infiltration in Assam gets a religious hue
Rajesh Sinha, Friday, October 10, 2008
GUWAHATI: For the first time in Assam, the resentment against immigrants and Bangladeshi infiltrators is wholly directed at Muslims in general. People in the riot-hit areas do not talk of migrant Muslims or Bangladeshi infiltrators any more. Be it Muslims or people of other faiths the conversation here is about ‘Muslims’ and ‘the others’. They do, however, agree that the root cause was infiltration — an indictment of the government’s failure to check it.
Bodos at a relief camp in Rauwta, Darrang district, said Muslims from the area attacked them and set their houses on fire in retaliation against a campaign to send Bangladeshi Muslims, and not Assamese Muslims, back.
Their explanation: the Assamese Muslims have developed social relations and marriage alliances with the Bangladeshis who live alongside them in Muslims localities. This was bound to happen if the Bangladeshis were allowed to settle down here, the refugees add. “They are all the same now, and they attacked all non-Muslims,” said a young man at the camp.
A stony silence greeted tribal affairs minister Promila Rani Brahma, a Bodo herself, when she urged refugees at a relief camp to go back to their villages. No one took her promise to ensure security seriously. Villagers said they dared not leave the camp, as people were dragged out of buses and killed. Many such tales were rumours, but the fear was real.
Tension is palpable here. Driving along the road one comes across rows upon rows of burnt down houses and sheds, damaged farm equipment and completely abandoned villages.
Fear reigns also at a Muslim relief camp some kilometres from the one the minister visited. Thousands of Muslims are living there. One of them, clearly an Assamese Muslim, said his village was sandwiched between Bodo villages on both sides. The Bodos had been threatening them and asking them to leave – or face consequences, he said.
According to him, the Bodos waited till Eid, on October 2, and then attacked them on Friday, October 3.
Locals also complain that Bangladeshi infiltrators have changed the indigenous Muslim population in one way. Earlier it was difficult to distinguish between Assamese Hindus and Muslims. But now the Muslims’ trademark skull cap, long kurtas and lungis has compounded the “We vs They” crisis.