Sapa/Cii News, Pic: AP July 26, 2012
Muslims are once again at the receiving end of violence that has gripped India’s north-eastern state of Assam.
The death toll has risen to 40 as soldiers patrolled riot-hit areas to prevent further clashes, officials said.
Local media reported that the violence was sparked when shots were fired last Thursday at two Muslim student leaders in the Magurbari area. Four Bodo men were killed in apparent retaliation on Friday, sparking a spiral of sectarian violence.
More than 150,000 people had reportedly fled their homes during fighting between indigenous Bodo and Muslim immigrants in three districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri.
The clashes were the latest in a long-simmering xenophobic conflict between indigenous people and Muslim immigrants largely over rights to land.
The Muslims are mostly from neighbouring Bangladesh and have migrated to Assam in search of work. Similar clashes in the region in 2008 claimed more than 50 lives.
Troops were given instructions to shoot suspected rioters and an indefinite curfew was enforced in troubled areas.
“The death toll now stands at 40 with more bodies being recovered from scene of previous clashes in the interior and far-flung areas,” LR Bishnoi, Assam’s inspector general of police, said by phone.
Officials said an estimated 13,000 troops were deployed in the districts Wednesday and marched to instill a sense of security.
At least 25 people died in Kokrajhar, the centre of the unrest since Friday night, 220 kilometres west of state capital Guwahati.
As the violence spread, 13 more people were killed in adjoining Chirang district, while two people were killed when police fired on rioters in Kokrajhar.
“The situation is more or less stabilizing in Kokrajhar while there were some stray incidents of violence in Chirang,” Bishnoi said.