Indian security personnel patrol the attack-hit area of the
Balapara village in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.
India has deployed troops to the state of Assam after 31
Muslims were gunned down in three days of what police said were
attacks by tribal militants who resent the presence of
immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
The unrest in the tea-growing state comes towards the end of
a marathon election across India that has heightened ethnic
and religious divisions and which the Hindu nationalist
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks set to win.
Security forces found the bodies of nine people with bullet
wounds on Saturday, six of them women and children, the third
day of violence that police have blamed on Bodo tribesmen
attacking Muslim settlers as punishment for opposing their
candidate in the election to the Indian parliament.
Bodo people are followers of the local Bathouist religion.
"We are scared to live in our village, unless security is
provided by the government," said Anwar Islam, a Muslim who
had come to buy food in Barama, a town about 30 km (20 miles)
from the villages in the Baksa district where the violence
erupted on Thursday and Friday.
He said men armed with rifles had come to his village,
Masalpur, on bicycles and had then fired indiscriminately and
set huts on fire.
Bodo representatives say many of the Muslims in Assam are
illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who encroach on ancestral
Bodo lands. In 2012, clashes erupted in which dozens of
people were killed and 400,000 fled their homes.
In addition to that violence, Assam has a history of
sectarian strife and armed groups fighting for greater
autonomy or secession from India.
MODI FACES CRITICISM
Election candidates, including the BJP's Narendra Modi, the
front-runner for prime minister, have been calling for
tighter border controls.
On Saturday, the ruling Congress party blamed Modi of using
divisive rhetoric. "Modi is a model of dividing India," said
Law Minister Kapil Sibal.
Modi said last week that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh
in the nearby state of West Bengal should have their "bags
packed" in case he came to power, accusing the state
government of being too soft.
"Modi should have been more responsible in his utterances,"
said Sabyasachi Basu Roy Chowdhury, a political science
professor at Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, the
capital of West Bengal.
"His words can be very damaging since, even if we consider
that Bangladeshis are living here illegally, there is a
question of human rights too."
But the BJP said it was the responsibility of the Congress
party that governs the state to ensure law and order and
crack down on militants.
Soldiers in convoys of trucks mounted with rifles were
patrolling on Saturday in Baksa district, where some of the
attacks took place.
Bodies covered with white sheets were laid out in a row at a
police outpost on the edge of Barama for identification by
Most Muslims were staying together in big groups, villagers
visiting the market in Barama said. Security forces found
three children hiding in forests near the border with Bhutan.
The Bodo region faces what residents say is a tight race
between a Bodo and a non-tribal candidate. A policeman was
killed during the voting when the region went to the polls on
"There's heightened tension because of the election," said
Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict
Management in New Delhi, although he said it was too early to
be certain about exactly what had provoked the attacks.
India's staggered voting concludes on May 12 and results are
due to be announced on May 16.
Modi is tainted by accusations that he turned a blind eye to,
or even encouraged, Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 in Gujarat,
the state he has governed for 13 years. More than 1,000
people, most of them Muslims, were killed.
He has always denied the accusations and a Supreme Court
inquiry did not find evidence to prosecute him.