Monday, August 20, 2012

Clashes expose India divide as elections loom

(Reuters) - The anonymous text message on Bhumidhar Das' mobile phone was chilling: "Muslims will attack and kill our people after Ramadan. Return home."

Within hours, Das, a Hindu working at a car factory in the city of Pune, joined tens of thousands of fellow migrant workers returning to hometowns in the remote northeast after getting or hearing of similar messages.

Nearly 80 people have been killed and 400,000 displaced in fighting between Muslims and mostly Hindu Bodo tribesmen in northeastern Assam state in recent weeks. The mass flight was sparked by rumors that Muslims, a big minority in predominantly Hindu India, were seeking revenge for the Assam violence.

Normally, there is little fallout in the rest of India from bouts of violence in Assam, which borders Bangladesh and is one of seven states connected to the main bulk of the country by a 'chicken neck' of land. This time, however, the grisly scenes unfolding in the far-flung northeast may fan communal politics in a country where simmering tensions between Hindus and Muslims have often been exploited for electoral gain. Read More