HARD LIGHT : Snapshot View of the North East Issue

Have you been following news on the Assam riots and the North East exodus from the rest of the country to Guwahati? Something seems to be happening, and the disappearance of your Nepali guard was strangely linked with violence in Mumbai. Similarly, the reappearance of the Mizo students next door is linked with refugees returning home from relief camps.

 Relief Camp at Kokrajhar, August 7. Photo : ABP, more at Kokrajhar, August 7. Photo : ABP, more at https://bengali.yahoo.com/Relief Camp at Kokrajhar, August 7. Photo : ABP, more at http://bengali.yahoo.com/

Here's a snapshot view of events as they happened.

  • Widespread riots between Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims broke out around July 20.
  • July 25. At least 36 people have been killed and 500 villages torched.
  • By July 30, the death toll had risen and close to 2,00,000 riot victims were living in relief camps.
  • Rumor regarding alleged attacks on North Eastern students in Pune and New Delhi spread in early August.
  • On August 12, protesters gathered in Mumbai's Azad Maidan (apparently students from one Raza Academy) attacked the police force, torched vehicles and damaged the Amar Jawan memorial. Two people were killed and an estimated 54 wounded, including policemen. This was supposed to be a protest against atrocities on Muslims in Assam. But the crowd had come armed with rods and chains, instead of candles and banners.
  • Trouble started in Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune and finally, Bangalore. North Eastern workers, mostly security guards and those who served in restaurants received alleged threats via SMS to vacate the cities or be driven out. An exodus started, though not in massive numbers.
  • On August 17, thousands of North Eastern people boarded trains from Bangalore to return home. The next day, a government ban was declared on mass SMS and MMS facilities. It seemed text message threats were creating panic among those who fled. These messages had come in response to MMS clips supposedly showing Muslims being beaten by people with Mongoloid features. India accused approximately 76 Pakistani websites of spreading panic through these doctored videos which had actually taken place in Myanmar.
  • The exodus grew to a massive panic reaction. More North Eastern people fled from all over India to their homes. Special trains had to be arranged in some cases.
  • On August 22, a raid at ULFA extremist leader Heera Sharania's house revealed a store of arms including an AK 56 rifle and 30 rounds of bullets. Apparently he was using illegal arms to threaten local businessmen and obtain funds. The next day, Bodoland Progressive Front (BPF) leader Pradeep Brahma was arrested for inciting riots.
  • Meanwhile, 65 Twitter accounts were frozen and Facebook agreed to cooperate with the Indian government in identifying and barring hate accounts. On August 22, four men were arrested in Pune for circulating hate SMS against North Eastern people. Some Assamese and Naga students returned from Guwahati to Maharashtra and Kerala.

Lady at Bangalore Station, August 20. Photo : ABP, more at https://bengali.yahoo.com/Lady at Bangalore Station, August 20. Photo : ABP, more at http://bengali.yahoo.com/

  • August 25. BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary declared his party would not break the partnership with the Congress government of Tarun Gogoi. An estimate on the same day revealed 1,46,214 people were living in 133 relief camps in Dhubri, 50203 in Kokrajhar, 39163 in Chirang and 11970 in Bongaigaon.
  • Clashes and deaths took place in Assam through August 26 and 27. ULFA militant Paresh Baruah declared : if Assamese people were threatened in 'mainland India', there would be retaliation on 'Indians' living in Assam. A headcount done on the same day shows over 35,000 North Easterners had fled Bangalore.
  • All-Assam strike, all-party convention, deaths, protests and attacks on media personnel continued through August 28, 29 and 30.  On August 30, almost all news agencies in Guwahati protested against the attack on media personnel, and suggested boycotting the All Assam Muslim Students Union (AAMSU). Meanwhile, Hagrama Mohilary announced on behalf of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) that all parties need to work together in rehabilitating people in the relief camps.
  • On September 1, the Group of Ministers (GoM) decided that people in the camps would be rehabilitated with government protection and financial assistance on producing land ownership documents. The deadline for submitting these papers were set for September 7.
  • September 8. An estimated 41, 101 people returned home within 24 hours by producing land documents. This is one of the largest daily rehabilitation record in the history of independent India. Alternate identification would be arranged for those who have lost land papers in the riots, including 8,639 families at Kokrajhar.
  • September 9. Approximately 1,98,634 people are still waiting finality of decision and further security in 218 relief camps in Assam.

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