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Muslims Flee After Separatists Kill 32 in India

The the north-eastern state of Assam, India is severely gripped in ethnic violence. The tensions between an ethnic-group called Bodos and migrant Muslim religious minorities over control of land and settlements have been simmering for a long time.  Image by Reporter#21795 Copyright Demotix (25/7/2012)

The northeastern state of Assam, India is severely gripped by ethnic violence. The tensions between the Bodo ethnic group and migrant Muslim religious minorities over control of land and settlements have been simmering for a long time. Image by Reporter#21795. Copyright Demotix (25/7/2012)

Ethnic violence erupted in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, leaving 32 Muslim villagers dead and prompting an exodus of the area's Muslims.

Armed Bodo separatists fired indiscriminately at Muslim settlers in three different attacks over Thursday, May 1 and Friday, May 2, 2014 in the Kokrajhar and Baska districts. The victims included children. 

In one of the attacks, dozens of homes were torched before the gunmen opened fire. 

Unconfirmed reports say the victims were targeted because of their voting choice in the recently concluded general elections. Police have arrested 22 people in connection with the violence.

Hundreds of Muslim villagers were seen fleeing with their belonging to nearby villages. The authorities tried to control the situation by calling in the army and imposing a curfew.

The Bodo tribe, which speaks the Bodo language, has long accused Muslims of sneaking into India from neighboring Bangladesh. The rebels belong to faction of the outlawed armed separatists group National Democratic Front of Bodoland, which wants a sovereign Bodoland for the Bodo people, who represent 10 percent of the population in the state of Assam.

Not only Muslim migrants, but also Hindi-speaking migrants from other states of India have also been targeted. In January 2014, seven civilians were killed by suspected National Democratic Front of Bodoland militants. They stopped four night buses coming from different parts of North Bengal, dragged out 13 passengers, lined them up and opened fire.

Militant Bodo groups have vowed not to let migrants live in villages that fall under the jurisdiction of the Bodoland Territorial Council, an autonomous body.

Journalist and blogger Habib Siddiqui provides some background on the conflict:

The Muslims that live in Assam are not immigrants from Bangladesh. Like many others, they have been living there for centuries, and at least before the time of Indian partition into Pakistan and India. Simply because of their Muslim identity and Bengali root, they are perceived as outsiders or new settlers in hateful Assam, which had her bloody history of pogroms against Muslims.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah suggested there was a connection between Prime Minister candidate for the Bharatya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance Narendra Modi’s recent speech criticizing Bangladeshi immigrants in India and the unprovoked killing of Muslims in Assam.

On Twitter, U.S.-based nuclear engineer Tanvir Salim explained the possible political motivation behind the attacks: 

User Dipankar questioned the Bodo tribe's tactics:

Rohit Vats argued the violence had nothing to do with religion: 

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