10 Things: About the Muslim killings in Assam

Updated 07 May 2014

10 Things: About the Muslim killings in Assam

1. Black Friday: The death toll has reached 44 in May 2 (Friday) massacres of Muslims in the two districts of Kokrajhar and Baksa in India’s northeast Assam Province. More than 50 houses were put on fire too.
2. Who did it?: The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) extremists rained bullets on the poor villagers in 4 different attacks.
3. Welcome, India election 2014: Which sets off hate waves, violent fallouts and then a series of blame-games. Is democracy going to the dogs?
4. But, who ignited it: Congress blames it on BJP that under radical leaders like Narendra Modi, a PM hopeful, it raked up migration issue and issued ultimatum to ‘illegal’ Muslims to leave. Since Congress is in power, one can ask it to explain its role too.
5. Is this a religious dispute?: Which is what BJP would like to make it out to be for cheap political gains. The issue is one of bitter cocktail of ethnic problems and competition for resources that have troubled this region.
6. Back to normal: Over 30 people have been arrested, curfew clamped and Assam CM Tarun Gogoi assured the riot affected of justice and “all help” to calm the situation.
7. Simmering tension: Persisting for years, the ethnic tension cropped up in the same region in 2012 that was possibly India’s worst case of mass human displacement owing to Bodo violence.
8. Gray area: Were they (those killed) Bangladeshis or Indians? There is a thin line between inward migration and illegal immigration from across the border. Politics then chip in to play its own dirty part.
9. Vested political interest: BJP is giving a communal color to the issue; but Bodos are killing them for land, resources and hegemony.
10. Muslim reaction: Largely restrained. From Jamaate Islami in India to OIC — all have condemned the killing and demanded action.

10 things about what the issue is all about

1. Bodos are Assam’s biggest tribal group. Their major districts like Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri became autonomous districts (BTAD) in 2003 following an armed Bodo movement since 1990.
2. BTAD however is as much home to Muslims, OBCs and other groups as it is to the Bodos.
3. Kokrajhar in particular has a highly mixed population of Bodos, Santhals, Bengali-speaking Hindus and Muslims; and every group wants a share in administration.
4. Muslims’ rising population became an issue, which was attributed variably to inward migration, illegal immigration and even population growth.
5. While BJP sees it as a rising powerful vote bank helping Congress, Bodos are concerned about their hegemony in the region.
6. Journalist Nilin Dutta doesn’t think it to be a Mexican case of illegal immigration? It’s a migration of Bengali peasants from Bengal to settle in Assam and hence they are very much Indians, he says.
7. Illegal immigration is an issue too. Since 1971, many illegal Bangladeshis poured into India due to a 4,096-km-long porous India-Bangladesh border. Who helped create Bangladesh?
8. Muslims are concerned about prevalence of huge weapons in the possession of Bodo insurgents. The question is who is supplying them arms? Which foreign hand is working here, and who will disarm them?
9. Let all these multi-tribal areas be placed under a federal setup. How about a new Union Territory?
10. It’s a land problem and it should be seen in that context only. The center and state governments can separately deal with illegal Bangladeshis’ problem.

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Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

Updated 48 min 48 sec ago

Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

  • Potential bombers ‘at large’ as death toll lowered to 253
  • Muslims asked to shun Friday prayer

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches suspended all public services over security fears on Thursday, as thousands of troops joined the hunt for suspects in deadly Easter bombings.

A senior priest said that all public services were being suspended and all churches closed “on the advice of security forces.”

Authorities revised the death toll down to 253, from the previous figure of 359, explaining that some of the badly mutilated bodies had been double-counted.

The father of two of the suspected bombers has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said suspects remained at large and could have access to explosives. Some of the suspects “may go out for a suicide attack,” Wickremesinghe said.

Hundreds of Ahmadi refugees in western Sri Lanka have taken refuge in mosques and a police station after facing intimidation following the bombings. Scores of Ahmadis who settled in Negombo after fleeing persecution in their home countries have been thrown out of their accommodation by landlords.

Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday over security failures. He submitted a letter of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena.

Britain’s Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.

“The horrific attack is a demonstration of how tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) that originated in this island nation several decades ago returned to haunt a shocked and broken government thanks to a complete collapse of counterterrorism capability or capacity,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, a security expert, writes in an opinion piece.

Hate preacher Zahran Hashim, head of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath group that is being blamed for the attacks, developed a reputation as a preacher who “copied” Daesh propaganda videos to enhance his posts via the pro-Daesh Al-Ghuraba media channel, which used Facebook and YouTube as its primary platforms, Karasik says. 

Sri Lanka’s Islamic affairs minister, M. H. M. Haleem, asked all Muslims to avoid prayers on Friday for security reasons. He also said it would be a mark of respect for those who perished in the nation’s worst violence in years.

Politician and Western Province Gov. Azath Salley told Arab News that the blasts were orchestrated by a handful of extremists and that the island’s Muslim population could not be held responsible for their “deviant” actions.