The Lok Sabha elections of 2014, though by and large peaceful at the core of the Indian polity, have felt tremors at the outliers, the latest of which is the killing of more than 30 Muslims by Bodo militants.
The issue was the Muslims not voting for the Bodo candidate in the area covered by the Bodoland Territorial Council and a woman MLA allegedly led marauding crowds that committed atrocities.
The mayhem started days after the state unit of the BJP had said in its plan document that it would make all arrangements for sending the illegal Muslim migrants back to Bangladesh if it came to power at the Centre, while allowing members of other communities to stay.
In undertaking this exercise, the State will face the problem of distinguishing between Indian Muslims and the Bangladeshi migrants. Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, broadly concurred with his party’s outlook, leaving himself open to fresh charges of being sectarian, a taint that he has been seeking to wash off over the past three years at least ever since he undertook the sadbhavana mission in 2011.
Violence between the two communities has been taking place from time to time since 1993 before a conflagration broke out in 2012, when more than 100 Muslims were killed.
The Assam government then looked a helpless figure even though timely action could have prevented a great deal of bloodshed. For example, there was ample indication that trouble was brewing in May, when a localised skirmish marked a minority organisation’s bandh to protest the removal of an idgah (open-air mosque) from a wildlife sanctuary. Had the state government intervened then, the killings of July-August may not have happened.
Hence, the lessons for the State are clear: If the strength of the Assam Police is not enough to maintain law and order, the government should bump it up.
The new government at the Centre should step up vigil on the borders and do all it can to prevent infiltration, which means stronger fencing of the borders.
The Union home ministry should beef up the Border Security Force and have senior IPS officers stationed in Assam to man the organisation. Finally, it is for the political leadership to ensure that the Assam accord is implemented in letter and spirit and not make unwarranted remarks.