New clashes in NE India as tension mounts


An angry mob torched a bus and burnt a road bridge in a restive region of northeast India on Thursday as violence blamed for a spike in inter-religious tension across the country flared again.
Police said the army and paramilitary troopers had been called out in the Nalbari and Kamrup districts of the state of Assam after clashes between Muslims and members of the local Bodo tribal community.
The unrest, which the Bodos and some politicians blame on an influx of Muslim settlers from nearby Bangladesh, has claimed 80 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people in the past three weeks.
Muslims blocked a highway on Thursday to protest against an overnight incident in which a group of Bodos set ablaze a car near Rangiya, 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of Assam’s main city of Guwahati, police said.
“At least one bus and a wooden bridge were set ablaze by some miscreants and police had to resort to blank firing to disperse the mob trying to block the highway,” police official G. Singh said.
There have also been reported reprisals against people from the northeast of India, who travel across the country to study or work and are easily identifiable by their more East Asian features.
Police said rumours that more attacks would follow after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on August 20 had led many to flee their homes in cities such as Bangalore in southern India.
Special trains have been organised from Bangalore to Assam after a surge in demand for tickets, South Western Railway (SWR) spokesman Suvankar Biswas told AFP.
“We had to scramble to arrange at short notice two special trains of 20-22 coaches each around midnight to Guwahati,” Biswas explained.
Police in Bangalore and in the surrounding state of Karnataka began trying to assure northeasterners, for whom Bangalore is a popular place to study.
“We are assuring students and others from the northeastern states residing in Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka that they are safe and need not to rush back to their homes,” Bangalore deputy commissioner of police Vincent S. D’Souza told AFP.
On Saturday, a rally by thousands of Muslims in Mumbai to protest over the unrest in Assam turned violent with three TV broadcast vans set on fire, and police vehicles and buses pelted with bricks and stones.
Two people were killed and dozens were injured.