Homes set on fire, Muslims flee after Assam massacre

Dozens of Muslim families fled their homes in India’s northeastern Assam state where soldiers were deployed to keep order after masked tribal militants gunned down villagers, mostly women and children

Homes set on fire, Muslims flee after Assam massacre

World Bulletin/News Desk

Several homes and stores in India's tea-growing state of Assam were set on fire by unidentified persons, police said, the latest attack in an area where Muslim villagers were killed in a massacre last week.

The unrest on Wednesday night comes towards the end of a marathon national election that has heightened ethnic and religious divisions in some parts of India.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), widely expected to emerge as the largest party in elections that end next week, has strongly condemned the violence and blamed the Congress party, which runs Assam and leads the national government.

But the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has ramped up verbal attacks on illegal immigration by Muslims from nearby Bangladesh, drawing criticism from his opponents that he is stirring up trouble.

At least 43 people were killed in Assam by suspected militants belonging to the Bodo tribe in three massacres last week. They were believed to be revenge attacks after Muslims voted against the Bodo candidate.

The Assam chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, told reporters that "So far the death toll is put at 43. The killings were indeed barbaric, with even a five-month-old baby not spared. It is unfortunate that bodies are still being recovered and we have reports that 11 more people are missing."

Gogoi said 15 children, aged between eight months and 14 years, had been left orphaned by the bloodshed and were being sent to a charity-run home in Guwahati, according to AFP.

Dozens of Muslim families fled their homes where soldiers were deployed to keep order, about 300 refugees were living at a relief camp set up about five kilometers (3 miles) from the worst-hit villages in Baksa district, Bloomberg reported.

Security forces on Thursday said the suspected Bodo militants had since fled to neighbouring Bhutan.

India shares a border with the Himalayan country and citizens do not need any documents to travel there.

"As the border is open, it is easier for the militants to cross over," S. N. Singh, a senior police officer told reporters. He said the Indian government had asked Bhutan to keep a watch on the border.

Sporadic outbreaks of violence are common against Muslims who live alongside the Bodo tribe in western Assam, near the border with Bangladesh.

Bodo militants say the Muslims are undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh who have taken their ancestral lands, but members of the minority group say they were mostly born in India.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Mayıs 2014, 12:34

Muhammed Öylek