THOUSANDS of people displaced in earlier flare-ups in the Bodo-dominated districts of west Assam were yet to move out of relief camps — some even after two decades — and fresh violence over the past week has rendered another two lakh homeless. In the immediate context, the state government failed to respond effectively as the clashes between the Bodos and a large immigrant Muslim population spread, possibly restrained by political considerations. What was sparked by the murder and counter-murder of a few leaders of the feuding groups, became an all-out mayhem simply because there were inadequate security forces deployed in sensitive areas. The Army has been called in now, but much after serious damage to stability.
The failure of both the state and Central governments, however, goes back further. The area is governed by the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District Council, which was formed in 2003 as a tool to end the Bodo tribal militancy that had been on since the eighties. The Bodos had long been working — often using violence — to oust what they called illegal immigrant (Muslim) settlers, as well as some other groups from Assam itself. The battle is for limited resources, including jobs.