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Inside Story
Who is to blame for India's ethnic unrest?
As Pakistan is accused of fuelling ethnic tensions in India, we analyse the allegations and factors behind it.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2012 15:41

India has accused neighbouring Pakistan of fabricating threatening messages – sent by mobile phones and over the internet – that triggered a panic among migrant workers in southern Indian cities, driving thousands to flee their homes.

"India, before it points its fingers at Pakistan, whether or not that is legitimate, needs to set its own house in order. There is rampant racism and absolute failure of the state …[and] an extremely casual attitude [toward] the security of young migrants from the northeast."

- Subir Sinha, a senior lecturer, SOAS

The messages threatened revenge attacks by Muslims against people from indigenous communities in the northeastern state of Assam.

As a result India has banned bulk messaging services for 15 days.

In July, violence in Assam between the predominantly Hindu Bodo tribe and Muslim groups resulted in the deaths of at least 77 people.

The clashes also displaced an estimated 400,000 people, mostly Muslims of Bangladeshi origin. A refugee camp has been set up in Jalpaiguri area of West Bengal.

The Bodo claim the Muslims, who are mainly from Bangladesh and make up most of the immigrants in Assam, are trying to take their land.

The state of Assam is home to more than 200 ethnic and tribal groups.

Al Jazeera's Casey Kauffman reporting on the panic situation says Indian authorities have blocked several websites in Pakistan that show images of people allegedly killed in revenge attacks over the violence in Assam.

"Some of the pictures are morphed, picked up from Myanmar and other countries and distributed, that's what made the government angry … they were taken aback on the way the social media sites suddenly started multiplying it."

- KC Singh, a former Indian diplomat

Indian authorities have reportedly arrested four men in Bangalore and seized computers and mobile phones which had been used to send fake images from Assam.

In this episode, Inside Story asks: How much of these latest allegations by India against Pakistan are true? And how will this affect the never-ending trouble between the two countries?

Joining the discussion with presenter Ghida Fakhry are guests: KC Singh, a former Indian diplomat; Subir Sinha, a senior lecturer in Institutions and Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies; and Ahmed Quraishi, a columnist with News International and a Pakistan affairs analyst.

"This is clearly an issue of ethnic tensions inside India that Pakistan has nothing to do with, there is no case of any Pakistani meddling in this matter … unless the Indian interior ministry comes up with some evidence, this is absolutely ridiculous."

Ahmed Quraishi, a Pakistan affairs analyst


ETHNIC TENSIONS IN ASSAM STATE:

  • Since the late 1970s, there have been protests against illegal migration from Bangladesh. The All Assam Students Union was one of the main groups campaigning against illegal immigration from Bangladesh.
  • In 1983, more than 2,000 Muslim women, men and children were killed in Nellie district.
  • The Assam Accords in 1985 provided for the sealing off of the border, and the setting up of a national citizens database using DNA testing to determine citizenship.
  • Failure to implement the provisions in the accord has been blamed for the continued violence.
  • In 1994, a relief camp for migrants was attacked in Barpeta district, killing at least 100 people. Thousands more have since been made homeless.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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