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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Muslim threats, nationalist fantasies and the 'Great Assam Exodus'


» 08/21/2012 16:10

Muslim threats, nationalist fantasies and the 'Great Assam Exodus'
Nirmala Carvalho
Almost 300,000 people from north-eastern India flee Karnataka and Maharashtra. New Delhi blames Islamabad for circulating revenge text messages following sectarian violence between tribal Bodos and Muslims settlers in Assam. For activist Raghuvanshi, the problem is rooted in tensions generated by Hindu nationalist forces.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - New Delhi and Islamabad could be facing another diplomatic crisis as a result of a recent major population displacement within India. Hundreds of thousands of people from Assam have in fact fled Bangalore (Karnataka), Mumbai and Pune (Maharashtra) after they received death threats via the Internet. The messages, which were posted mostly on Facebook and Twitter, warned workers from north-eastern India that Indian Muslims would take revenge against them forsectarian clashes last month in the state of Assam. For India, Pakistan is behind this hate campaign, but Islamabad has denied any involvement, calling on New Delhi to back up its claims with evidence.
In Assam, violence between tribal Bodos and Muslim settlers left 80 people dead in July. This has sparked the panicked flight of about 400,000 people from both communities, some finding shelter in refugee camps set up by the local Catholic Church. Tensions eventually spread to other Indian states where Bodos and other ethnic groups moved in search of work.
Last week, panic began spreading when text messages and photos on social networks began fuelling rumours. About 300,000 people from north-eastern India, mostly students, crammed railway stations trying to escape, fearful they might be targeted by Muslims for retaliation.
At present, the exodus has stopped and things are getting back to normal thanks to cooperation among the various Indian states involved. However, it is unclear who posted the first intimidating messages online. For New Delhi, the culprits are in Pakistan. Islamabad has denied the accusations, calling on India to show its evidence, which has not been forthcoming.
"Violence in Assam is localised with its particular history and context," human rights activist Lenin Raghuvanshi told AsiaNews.
However, for Raghuvanshi, who is director of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), such conflicts "have repercussions that explode in internal conflicts fuelled by the nationalism of fascist forces."
In his view, "India's greatest threat is an internal exodus provoked by internal nationalist groups (supporters of the Hindutva ideology) or external groups like Muslim fundamentalists.

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