Anti-Muslim violence flares up in India state

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Agartala – Tension prevails in India’s north-eastern state of Tripura following attacks on mosques and properties owned by Muslims, BBC reported on Thursday.

Security has been tightened and restrictions on gatherings have been enforced in the affected areas.

The violence followed clashes between Hindu groups and the police.

The groups were protesting against the police refusing them permission to hold a rally against recent attacks on Hindus in neighboring Bangladesh.

At least seven people were killed, temples desecrated and hundreds of houses and businesses of the Hindu minority torched in Bangladesh earlier this month after reports that the Qur’an had been insulted at a special pavilion set up for the annual Hindu religious festival of Durga Puja.

Tripura is encircled on three sides by Bangladesh and connected by a thin corridor to the neighbouring state of Assam. The state has been run by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2018 after 25 years of Communist rule.

More than 10 incidents of religious violence have been reported from the North Tripura district in the past four days.

Authorities enforced restrictions on large gatherings after Tuesday night’s violence in the border town of Panisagar in which a mosque and several shops belonging to Muslims were vandalized.

The attacks followed a rally taken out by the hardline Hindu organization, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) — a close ally of the BJP.

Soubhik Dey, a senior police official in Panisagar, said some 3,500 people had taken part in the rally.

“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,” Dey said.

Police said the ransacked shops and houses belonged to Muslims and a case has been filed based on a complaint by one of them.

Narayan Das, a local leader of Bajrang Dal, another hardline Hindu group, has claimed that some youngsters in front of the mosque abused them and brandished swords, a charge that could not be independently verified.

The Tripura police tweeted that “some people are spreading rumours and circulating provocative messages on social media” and appealed to people to maintain peace.

Last week, the state unit of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, a Muslim organisation, had alleged that mobs had attacked mosques and neighborhoods dominated by Muslims. The Tripura police said that they were providing security to more than 150 mosques in the state.

Muslims make up less than 9% of Tripura’s 4.2 million population.

“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,” said Bikach Choudhury, a Tripura-based writer.

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 “polarize” the voters ahead of the municipal elections in the state in November.

Calls to Tripura’s Minority Affairs’ Minister Ratanlal Nath went unanswered.

But a BJP leader, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told the BBC that the opposition should “not try to spin political capital out of a few sporadic incidents in reaction to the massive attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh”.

He claimed that “the state government had done what is needed to control the situation”.