THE VIOLENCE IN THE WESTERN ASSAM DISTRICTS involving indigenous Bodo tribespeople and Muslims of East Bengali origin, which peaked in July-August this year, has abated. In the weeks that rioting gripped the state, over 100 people were killed and nearly 200,000 people displaced from their homes. After initial stray incidents escalated into more widespread violence, the Assam government called in the army, which restored some semblance of calm to the region. Many survivors, however, remain in ill-equipped camps, unsure when they can safely return to their homes and lives.
While the state may have been spared major eruptions of violence since mid-September, sneak attacks continue. Amidst incidents of Bodo rebels attacking Muslims trying to return to their villages, leader of a faction of the Bodo rebel group National Democratic Front of Bodoland, Gobinda Basumatary declared that displaced Muslims would have to “prove beyond doubt” their Indian citizenship before they would be allowed to return to their homes.
Worryingly, following the western Assam incidents, the anti-migrant movement is spreading to other parts of Assam, as well as some neighbouring states. In Nagaland, the Naga Council and the Naga Hoho, both powerful local groups made up of local intelligentsia and tribal elders, have called for expulsion of all “migrants” from Nagaland. Nativist groups in neighbouring Meghalaya and Manipur have also called for the immediate detection and expulsion of “foreigners” (read: illegal migrants).