This Article is From Sep 13, 2012

In this Assam town, a determined effort to fight communal tension

Dhubri: Dhubri town served as a refuge for hundreds of people who were affected by the recent ethnic violence in Assam, the worst in the state in over a decade.

On Saturday morning, an idol in the town's oldest temple was found vandalized and the jewellery that adorned the Goddess Kali was missing. In Dhubri, Muslims are in the majority, and officials were worried they would be targeted in retaliation for the damage at the temple. Worried about communal tension, the administration had imposed a curfew which is relaxed for a few hours every day.

Muslims and Hindus in the town, however, say they are determined to keep the peace. The Hindus say they accept that the temple was damaged in a robbery, and not in a religious attack. On Tuesday evening, a shop owned by a Hindu was set on fire but the residents of the colony quickly set up "a peace committee" to patrol the neighbourhood and keep out others who could create trouble. Mohammed Ismail Hussain, the Secretary of the committee said, "Both Hindus and Muslims doused the shop set on fire."

The day after the temple was vandalized, Daihanu Nayam, a reporter with a local daily was murdered while on assignment. His brother, Sohail Ali, a lawyer in the Guwahati High Court, says that just because Daihanyu was a Muslim doesn't mean he was killed in revenge. "I am firm it was not communal violence but a planned murder of my brother because of his reporting so I demand a high-level inquiry," he said.

In August, clashes between the indigenous tribal Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims killed more than 90 people in three of the four districts that make up Bodoland, which is governed by an autonomous council. The clashes are partly the result of the changing demographic of the area. The Bodos are worried that they will be out-numbered by the number of settlers who arrive here, both from Bengal and through the porous border with Bangladesh. The increasing population has put unprecedented pressure on the agricultural land in the area.