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New State Causes Protests, Strikes Across India


India’s ruling Congress party might have opened Pandora’s box on a whole host of social and religious grievances across India with its attempt to create a new state, Telangana, in India’s southeast. Far away to the northeast, for example, different ethnic groups have gone on strike and staged violent protests in support of separate homelands for their communities.

Numerous competing groups have staged widespread protests and strikes in Assam since the Telangana decision last week. Groups of Bodos, a dominant ethnic group in the region, have set up road blocks, shut down train service, clashed with police, and set fire to administrative buildings through parts of the province. Schools, markets, and businesses have been closed for the sixth day in a row in some places. Similar separatist movements by other groups, including ethnic Bengali migrants, are gathering force and growing more frenzied and violent. Yesterday a Bodo group issued an ultimatum to the government, saying there is “no alternative to Bodoland.”

Assam was the scene of brutal ethnic violence last year when ethnic Bodo militias killed and burned their way through villages populated by Bengali Muslim migrants. This area is virtually overflowing with tension between different ethnic and religious groups and between those groups and the authority of the central government far away in Delhi. Migrants moving west from Bangladesh into the poor and undeveloped state compete for land and resources with local communities. This migration has intensified and grown violent in the recent past.

[Bodo protestors in Kokrajhar; image courtesy Getty]

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  • ljgude

    I can’t help but think of V S Naipaul’s A million Mutinies Now. India is a place where the modern idea of the Nation State gets blurry.

  • lukelea

    Diversity can be a curse. Time to end its mindless celebration in the United States of America. E Pluribus Unum!

  • Jim__L

    Is the Equator starting to fracture?

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