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Police see 'conspiracy' in Assam probe

11 arrested in past week over July sectarian violence in east Indian state

Police see 'conspiracy' in Assam probe
Displaced people in the eastern state of Assam
Anirban Roy, Kolkata

January 11, 2013

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The Central Bureau of Investigation has said that there is a “larger conspiracy” behind sectarian violence that led to 77 deaths in Assam in July after the arrests of 11 people in the past week.

Although it has not given details, the CBI said “political actors” were responsible for the fighting between ethnic minority Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims in eastern India in July.

On Tuesday, police arrested student leader Mainul Haque who is considered a key suspect involved in inciting the violence.

Rioting began after unknown people shot Mainul Haque at his home in Kokrajhar district on July 19 after he was accused of committing crimes. His supporters allegedly vandalized Bodo homes in retaliation.

Some 400,000 people were displaced from close to 400 villages in what social scientists have called one of modern India’s worst refugee crises, as houses were burned to the ground and plundered.

Tensions had been simmering in the area for years. Bodos – whose call for statehood remains unfulfilled by New Delhi – fear that they will soon be outnumbered by illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

“When political parties fail to perform, it is natural for them to ignite tension along communal lines and to draw quick gains,” said Ratan Das, a political science lecturer at a college in Kokrajhar district, one of the areas affected.

Some experts like Monirul Hussein, professor of political science at Gauhati University, believe that clashes were part of a systematic effort to drive out the Muslims and others to establish a homogeneous Bodo territory in the area.

An examination of the 2011 government census would prove that Bengali Muslim migration has been negligible, he added.

In a rushed effort to return to normal, the state government has closed all but 24 of 280 relief camps set up in the wake of the tragedy.

Of these, 21 are Muslim and just three Bodo. All are suffering cramped, inadequate conditions, according to reports.

“How can we go back to our villages when the state government cannot guarantee us security,” said Isfaqul Hussain, a villager from Kachugaon.

Church groups involved in the relief effort say they have tried to help reduce tensions by meeting community leaders from both sides and organizing peace rallies.

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