FaithWorld

‘Election’ massacres of Muslims darken India immigration debate

May 9, 2014
(Villagers from Muslim communities wail upon seeing the body of a woman at a relief camp in Narayanguri village in Baksa district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam May 4, 2014. India deployed troops in Assam on Saturday after more than 30 Muslims were gunned down in three days of what police said were attacks by Bodo tribal militants, who resent the presence of settlers they claim are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial front-runner in India's mammoth general election, on Sunday reiterated his strong stance against illegal immigrants, just days after a wave of sectarian killings in the north-eastern state of Assam. REUTERS/Utpal Baruah)

(Villagers from Muslim communities wail upon seeing the body of a woman at a relief camp in Narayanguri village in Baksa district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam May 4, 2014.REUTERS/Utpal Baruah)

From his hiding place in a cowshed, Sefaqul Islam watched as masked gunmen moved through his village, shot women and children dead with automatic rifles and tossed wounded survivors into the blazing remains of their homes.

The cattle herder’s sister and seven-year-old nephew were among 41 Muslims killed by suspected tribal militants last week in India’s remote state of Assam, the latest atrocity against people accused of being immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

“We will never go back to the village,” said Islam, as he and dozens of Narayanguri’s traumatized inhabitants erected bamboo-framed tents on the opposite bank of the Beki river.

Police and local residents said three separate attacks were carried out by militants from the ethnic Bodo community as punishment for Muslims who failed to support their local candidate in the election, which is still going on across India.

The worst outbreak of communal violence in the northeastern region since 2012 has compounded fears among Muslims living along the India-Bangladesh border who feel they are being singled out by the man widely expected to be India’s next prime minister – Narendra Modi.

The Hindu nationalist candidate, campaigning mainly on a ticket of economic growth, has ratcheted up rhetoric against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, saying they should have their “bags packed” ready to be sent home should he win.

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