JUBAIL, SAUDI ARABIA: The ongoing ethnic-communal conflict between the Bodo tribes of Assam and the Muslim community has taken a dangerous turn, with violence spreading to several districts. Riots have already claimed 40 lives, while over 170,000 people from both communities have taken shelter in relief camps. Regardless of the fact about how the violence started and who instigated it, it must be noted that the real factors behind this confrontation are economic and cultural. The Bodo tribes want to maintain their, at present much-eroded, socio-cultural and ethnic identity. They do not want to give up their centuries-old land and forest rights to newcomers. Dirty vote-bank politics also plays a role wherein politicians turn a blind eye to illegal immigration from Bangladesh as people cross the Assam-Bangladesh porous border without much trouble.
It’s high time that the state and central governments take steps to stop the infiltration in the border areas. A way to seal the border is to fence at least those locations where no physical control is possible. A fence between Indian and Pakistani controlled territory in the Kashmir valley has helped to reduce infiltration, which means there is less violence in the valley. Whenever an outside group of different ethnicity or religious background grows to the extent that it starts impacting adversely on the indigenous population’s economic rights, it is natural for the locals to feel insecure and intimidated. India needs to get Bangladesh on board to start fencing of the border; it’s a pre-requisite if ever violence is to be curbed in Assam.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.
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