Tripura: Anti-Muslim Violence Flares Up

Violence and tensions have flared up in India’s northeastern state of Tripura following attacks on mosques and properties owned by Muslims. These attacks are seen as a retaliation for the violence against Hindus in neighboring Bangladesh earlier this October.

In Bangladesh, on October 13, at least six people were killed, temples desecrated and hundreds of houses and businesses of the Hindu minority torched after rumors spread that the Quran had been insulted at a special pavilion set up for the annual Hindu religious festival of Durga Puja.

The violence also led to demonstrations in India.

In Tripura, in the past four days, more than 10 incidents of religious violence have been reported in the North district. Tripura is encircled on three sides by Bangladesh, connected by a thin corridor to the neighboring state of Assam, and run by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2018 after 25 years of Communist rule.

State authorities have deployed police and paramilitary troops and banned the assembly of more than five people in areas where attacks were reported. Additionally, police have confirmed that at least one mosque, several shops, and Muslims’ homes in the northern part of the state had been vandalized since Tuesday. No deaths have been reported.

Who is behind these attacks on Muslims?

Muslim leaders have said that Hindu mobs attacked mosques and torched their properties following a protest rally Tuesday by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hard-line Hindu nationalist group with ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is not known if the attackers were members of the VHP.

Vinod Bansal, the VHP’s national spokesperson, denied that its members were involved in the attacks. “We did not attack anyone. We were peacefully protesting against anti-Hindu attacks in Bangladesh,” reports AP.

Soubhik Dey, a senior police official in Panisagar, said some 3,500 people took part in the rally and that “some VHP activists participating in the rally ransacked a mosque in the Chamtilla area. Later, three houses and three shops were ransacked and two shops were set on fire in the Rowa Bazar area, around 800 yards from the first incident.”

Vinod Sonkar, a lawmaker from Modi’s party that rules Tripura state, said the government has set up a committee to investigate the violence. No arrests have been made so far. Also, Tripura police have tweeted that “some people are spreading rumors and circulating provocative messages on social media” and appealed to people to maintain peace.

Muslims make up less than 9% of Tripura’s 4.2 million population, but such violence against them had not been seen in the past. As Bikach Choudhury, a Tripura-based writer said, “Though a majority of Tripura’s population is Hindu refugees from what is now Bangladesh, there has never been any backlash against Muslims here after previous religious disturbances in the neighboring country.”

Opposition parties have blamed the “politically motivated fringe elements” close to the BJP for the attacks on Muslims. Sushmita Dev, an MP from the regional Trinamul Congress party, told the BBC that the BJP was trying to use the recent violence in Bangladesh to “polarise” the voters ahead of the municipal elections in the state in November.

These recent attacks are a further demonstration of rising religious tensions in India, and in Tripura, this wave of unrest is creating a major collective psychosis among the Muslims. The state authorities could have reacted faster in this case. For the future, more controls need to be put in place to secure muslins and immediate punishments must be put on the perpetrators.

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