World Bulletin/News Desk
The death toll in the Baksa district of Assam, India, rose to 32 Saturday after the recovery of nine more people as violence continues in the area, Indian media reported.
The nine dead included four children and two women in the Khagrabari village near the Manas National Park. The two children were identified as Ilina Khatun and Ariful Islam.
Indian authorities say that the suspected Bodo militants belonging to the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland are behind the massacre.
Badruddin Ajmal, member of Indian Parliament and perfume magnate, from adjoining Dhubri area where thousands of Muslims have taken shelter in relief camps, told Anadolu Agency that the Congress party-led state government must be dissolved.
“We demand imposition of President’s rule in the state as the government has failed in its constitutional duty to protect Indian minorities,” Ajmal said, adding that the autonomy of the Bodoland Territorial Council must be rescinded as it has failed in its commitment to safeguard the non-Bodo population.
The affected area of Baksa and Kokrajhar districts, where the ethnic violence started on Thursday night, fall under Bodoland Territorial Administration Districts administered by the council.
Mumbai-based, Burhanuddin Qasmi, editor of monthly English magazine ‘Easter Crescent’, who hails from Assam, told Anadolu Agency that a large number of Muslims are still missing in Baksa district.
“The death toll is likely to rise as many Muslims who fled from Baksa and other villages are still missing,” he said.
Qasmi claimed one regional Bodo leader had threatened Muslims three days ago in the affected area as the leader believed Muslims did not vote for the Bodo candidate of choice in the voting in India’s national elections in Assam.
After massacre, anger mounted against the Assam state government as survivors of anti-Muslim ethnic violence refused to perform funeral rites of 18 people including women and children unless Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister, visits the violent-torn villages in India’s tea-growing northeastern state, Indian media reported.
“We demand protection that we are not attacked and killed in future. Does our life have no value?” a group of angry protestors told media, claiming not a single government representative visited the affected area since Thursday, the day violence started.
“The district administration instead of providing violence-hit people security and protection, is now threatening to arrest us if we do not perform janaja (last rites) of our dead,” Press Trust of India quoted protestors as saying.
Maulana Mahmood Madni, an influential Muslim leader of Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, a Muslim organization, visited affected areas and met Gogoi and state governor demanding stern action against the perpetrators of violence.
Madni blamed the state government of being “insincere” regarding the safety of the Muslim minority in the region.
The situation remained tense in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts as members of Indian Army guarded and patrolled the sensitive areas amid no reports of violence in the past 24 hours.
Since Thursday, more than 50 houses belonging to members of the Muslim community have been set ablaze and the Indian police have arrested 12 people from the Baksa area in connection with four attacks that singled out Bengali-speaking Muslims.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the “terrorist attacks” terming it as “cowardly attempts to spread fear and terror among” the citizens.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi dismissed calls by opposition parties and civil rights activists for his resignation.
“I will not step down as a chief minister. I am not a coward….I will not run away from battlefield, I will fight the terrorists,” Gogoi said after chairing a meeting demanding a probe by federal National Investigation Agency.
The ethnic violence which began Thursday night when Bodo militants armed with automatic assault rifles fired indiscriminately at a group of people in Baksa district followed by a second attack in the Kokrajhar district. A third attack took place Friday evening when 10 bodies sprayed with bullets were recovered from the Baksa district.
The rebels, an ethnic minority, have been fighting for a separate homeland for the region’s Bodo people against India.
Friday’s killings are the second biggest ethnic attack since 2012 when riots between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims left over 80 people dead and displaced 400,000.
Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial front-runner in India's mammoth general election, on Sunday reiterated his strong stance against illegal immigrants, just days after a wave of killings.
Modi has repeatedly called for tighter immigration controls and recently said illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the state of West Bengal should have their "bags packed" in case he came to power, accusing the state government of being too soft.
At a rally on Sunday in West Bengal he accused the state government of looking to secure votes from ethnic and religious minorities.
"You are concerned about infiltrators and not your own people ... they must go back, they are robbing the youths of India of their livelihood," Modi told the rally in West Bengal, which borders Assam.
Critics have long accused the BJP of deep-seated prejudice against India's Muslims, who make up more than 12 percent of the country's 1.2 billion population.
The BJP says it only opposes preferential treatment for any community.
"This violence has a long history," said BJP spokesperson MJ Akbar, referring to the Assam attacks. "This knee-jerk reaction of blaming Narendra Modi for everything is absurd."
Bangladesh's Information Ministry did not immediately respond to request for comments on Modi's latest speech.
Assam state government has announced a compensation of $5000 for the next kin of the each victim. The federal government is expected to contribute an equal amount.
The brutal ethnic massacre has brought back memories of 2012 large-scale rioting between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims which killed more than 80 people and displaced 400,000.
Analysts believe the deadly attacks are a result of poll season “hate wave” as Bodos think migrant Muslims did not vote for a particular Bodo candidate on April 24 national election in the state.
Last Mod: 04 Mayıs 2014, 18:02