Bollywood may be a great example of harmony between people of radically different faiths working and living together peacefully, even participating in one another’s religious festivals. But not all is good for Muslim minorities in India. Over the past two decades, Muslims of Bengali origin living in the state of Assam have been targeted every so often by Bodo tribespeople. The latest series of ethnic killings of Muslims started last month and in some places continues to be a living nightmare for Muslims.
The plight of Muslims was reported in the most touching manner on Al-Jazeera website, telling how victimized Muslim women from Assam begged to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to let them live in temporary refuge away from their homes because they could not live under constant threat of death. Eating poorly or living in miserable conditions in refugee camps is not their dread – they want to be safe from the horror coming at them from the ethnic Bodo people, dominantly Hindu, who want them out of “their” land or just plain dead. The only crime of these suffering masses is their origin of being Bengali Muslim who came here decades ago and their generations grew up here, living as an ethnic minority.
Horrific as it is, Muslims of Bengali origin still face a worse scenario as the senseless hatred against them is showing signs of spreading to other places outside Assam. Bodo people in Nagaland, Assam’s neighboring state, have also started threatening to target Bengali Muslims, saying they are determined to push the Muslims out of their state.
Cornered and targeted recklessly, Muslims in Assam have been subject to the one of the worst treatments ethnic minorities suffer in the third world under an oppressive majority. Naturally, there will be a backlash with violent protests against Muslims killings in Assam occurring in Mumbai. It doesn’t take long for ethnic or religious violence to evoke anger and even violence in other places, outside the country. Some groups with malicious intent start threatening innocent people in other states than where the violence has happened. For example, some online groups, allegedly Pakistani, have threatened Hindus population in Bangalore with retaliation for the bloodshed against Muslims in Assam.
Law and order continues to be at the forefront of challenges in third world and in countries like India and Pakistan, religious belief is frequently the excuse for venting one’s murderous frenzy on a group of people labeled as “the problem”. All this while this attitude and narrow-mindedness is the real problem.