The death toll from ethnic violence in Assam rose to 40 on Wednesday, as military reinforcements were called in to quell more than four days of clashes.
The clashes pit members of the ethnic Bodo community against Muslim settlers who mostly came from the former East Pakistan before it became Bangladesh in 1971.
The violence broke out in the district of Kokrajhar when two Muslim student leaders were shot and injured, leading to revenge strikes on Bodo groups.
The main cause of the present clash between Bodo tribals and immigrant Muslims is control over land.
Kokrajhar and Chirang were predominantly a Bodo tribal majority areas till nineties. But there were migration of immigrant Muslims to the Gossaigaon sub division areas in Kokrajhar district since beginning of 90s. Immigrant Muslim population has increased many fold in Gossaigaon sub division in last two decades.
Immigrant Muslims procured lands from many Bodos in Gossaigaon areas and outnumbered Bodos in many villages. Slowly , there were migrations of immigrant Muslims (mainly agricultural labourers and daily wage earners) to Kokrajhar town areas.
The control over land by immigrant Muslims in Bodo heartland and increasing population of immigrant Muslims in Kokrajhar and other districts of BTC created fear psychosis among Bodos.
In 2003, Bodoland Territorial Council ( BTC) was created with signing the BTC accord between Assam Govt., Central Govt and BLT (a militant outfit which spearheaded separate Bodoland state movement). BLT was disbanded with singing of BTC accord.
Hagrama Mahilary who once headed BLT formed a political outfit and won the council election. BTC composes of four districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri. There were huge oppositions from non Bodo against creation of BTC. The non Bodos alleged that Bodos would create trouble for non Bodos living in BTC.
There have been allegations from non Bodos that BTC administration under Hagrama Mahilary neglected non Bodos and immigrant Muslims in BTC severely opposed the functioning of BTC. The immigrant Muslim also opposed vehemently the separate Bodo state demands.