Tripura, India – Liton Miya continues to be in a state of shock. It was 10 pm on October 23 when the 35-year-old heard some villagers scream in panic. As he rushed out together with others, a wood bier and a few prayer mats within the courtyard of the native mosque had been on fireplace.
“We discovered that the attackers had poured kerosene contained in the mosque as nicely. However earlier than any extra injury may occur, the village had woken up and the attackers fled,” Miya stated exterior the small tin shack which serves as a mosque and conventional spiritual college in a quiet nook of Naraura village in Sipahijila district of Tripura state in northeastern India.
Naraura is lower than 50km (31 miles) from Comilla in neighbouring Bangladesh, the place a photograph of the Quran positioned on an idol of a Hindu deity through the Durga Puja competition triggered violence throughout the Muslim-majority nation, killing six individuals, together with two Hindu males.
In obvious retaliation to the lethal violence in Bangladesh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP), and different native teams took out protest rallies in Tripura and allegedly attacked Muslims and their spiritual locations, together with mosques.
The VHP is affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of India’s Hindu supremacist teams which seeks to transform India into an ethnic Hindu state. Most high leaders of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP), together with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, began their political careers as RSS employees.
Tripura, a distant state dominated by Bengali-speaking Hindus, is at the moment ruled by Modi’s BJP. Muslims type about 9 % of its 3.7 million inhabitants.
’16 mosques focused’
The string of assaults concentrating on mosques has triggered fears and nervousness amongst Tripura’s Muslim minority.
“There are 16 mosques which have been focused,” stated Mufti Abdul Momin, who heads a faction of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, an influential pan-India Muslim organisation, in Tripura.
Momin stated most incidents occurred within the night time and the locals weren’t capable of determine the perpetrators.
“We don’t sleep at night time nowadays. Six or seven of us are up until daybreak to protect the village,” Najrul Islam, a authorities worker within the Chamtilla space of Panisagar, advised Al Jazeera.
Panisagar city, positioned in North Tripura district, noticed essentially the most arson and vandalism on October 26. Residents and police say the violence occurred through the VHP rally.
Islam stated the rally handed by Chamtilla space at about 3 pm. “The mob was shouting provocative and derogatory slogans in opposition to the prophet. Out of the blue, 30 to 40 of them got here in the direction of the mosque and vandalised it,” he advised Al Jazeera.
The attackers broke the home windows and smashed the ceiling followers as Islam and different locals watched from a distance, scared that the mob may come after them in the event that they intervened.
“They didn’t even spare the agar (Aquilaria) timber. They promote for hundreds,” he stated. A row of timber within the mosque’s courtyard was uprooted by the mob.
After attacking the mosque in Chamtilla, the rally proceeded in the direction of Rowa, a brief distance away the place a gaggle of Muslims had gathered on the native mosque.
“A few of those that had been a part of the rally needed to march in the direction of the mosque. However they had been stopped by the police and a few Hindus of the village,” Sanohar Ali, who owns a store within the native market, advised Al Jazeera.
Then, a bit of the mob first attacked a few homes on the periphery of the village and began torching retailers belonging to Muslims. Roughly half a dozen retailers available in the market had been both totally or partially burned.
“One in every of them served because the native BJP workplace. Even that was not spared,” stated Ali as he stood inside his charred store the place he bought footwear and garments.
“It went on for over an hour. The police couldn’t cease them.”
The identical night, Churaibari in the identical district, noticed some vandalism concentrating on spiritual locations, together with some belonging to Hindus, native media experiences stated.
Bijit Roy, an area VHP chief, blamed “some miscreants” of their October 26 rally for the violence.
“Some anti-national slogans had been blaring out of the loudspeaker of the native mosque. It’s then that some ‘duracharis’ (miscreants) indulged within the torching of retailers,” he advised Al Jazeera.
Roy stated the Muslims had been shouting “Naara-e-Takbeer, Allahu Akbar” – a slogan generally utilized by Muslims the world over.
“A few of them had been even screaming ‘Pakistan zindabad’ (Lengthy stay Pakistan),” he alleged. “Hindus are peaceable. Our intention was to not goal Indian Muslims.”
‘We had been outnumbered’
A police official in Panisagar, who spoke to Al Jazeera on situation of anonymity, stated they’re investigating the incident.
“However there was no provocation from the opposite aspect,” he stated, referring to the realm’s Muslims.
The police officer stated it was the VHP that flouted their laws.
“We had been vastly outnumbered,” he stated, explaining the rally had way more individuals than the administration had permitted.
“The VHP violated the circumstances that had been positioned whereas granting permission for the rally.”
The official stated police have arrested 4 residents for his or her alleged position within the violence. “The one who raised slogans within the rally is absconding. Raids are on, we’ll arrest him,” he stated.
The police officer additionally stated they’re trying into separate fireplace incident in an area mosque. This mosque, located proper subsequent to an deserted temple on the campus of an erstwhile paramilitary camp, was attacked 4 days earlier than the October 26 violence.
Spiritual books and different objects had was ashes contained in the tin-roofed mosque and a portion of its wall was introduced down.
A neighborhood resident, talking on situation of anonymity, stated the incident on the mosque the place the realm’s Muslims solely supply Friday prayers occurred on October 22.
“We’re trying into it. There was no grievance about it. No intimation to the hearth providers both,” the native police official stated.
On Tuesday, america Fee on Worldwide Spiritual Freedom (USCIRF) stated it was alarmed by experiences of violence in opposition to Muslims in Tripura and urged the Indian authorities to stop the assaults.
“USCIRF is especially alarmed about experiences from Tripura of mobs desecrating mosques and torching properties of Muslims. The Indian authorities should deliver these answerable for instigating and fascinating in spiritual violence to justice and should forestall additional assaults,” USCIRF stated in a tweet.
USCIRF is an impartial, bipartisan federal authorities fee that makes spiritual freedom and overseas coverage suggestions to the US president, the US Senate and the State Division.
In a current interview with Al Jazeera, USCIRF chair Nadine Maenza stated spiritual freedom circumstances in India – a “nation of specific concern” for 2 years in a row – had been “enormously regarding”.
However Tripura police chief VS Yadav downplayed the violence and stated they had been “minor incidents” which can be being investigated. He claimed many makes an attempt just like the one in Naraura had been thwarted by “well timed intervention” by the police.
“There was no incident previously week,” Yadav advised Al Jazeera. He stated a number of instances, together with those pertaining to violence and sharing of faux movies and pictures on social media, have been registered within the state.
“There are instances from each side,” he stated.
These are pretend movies are being circulated underneath legal conspiracy to disturb the peace and communal concord within the state and defame the state authorities and police. police has registered legal instances and appropriate motion in opposition to the pretend rumours is being taken expeditiously.
— Cyber Crime Tripura (@CrimeTripura) November 3, 2021
On Thursday, Tripura police stated it has arrested six individuals in varied “communal incident instances”. 4 others had been arrested for being “concerned in spreading malicious propaganda with a view to creating hatred between two spiritual teams” in North Tripura district.
In the meantime, at the very least two New Delhi-based attorneys who had been a part of a fact-finding mission to Tripura have been booked underneath the stringent Illegal Actions Prevention Act (UAPA), a controversial anti-terror regulation.
They’ve been requested to seem earlier than the police in Tripura and delete their “fabricated and false statements” posted on social media. Police stated they may take motion in opposition to 71 individuals who “posted provocative posts on social media”.
The Tripura authorities stated it’ll take motion in opposition to these answerable for the current violence and promised to compensate these whose properties had been broken.
Politics of polarisation
Tripura shares an 856-km (532-mile) border with Bangladesh. As soon as a predominantly tribal state, Bengali audio system, together with migrants and refugees who got here in a number of waves, make up for almost all now.
Whereas the state has had a historical past of fault-lines between the Bengalis and the native tribals, battle on spiritual traces had been uncommon.
State police chief Yadav says there was no sample to the a number of incidents. The officer stated he suspects it was the “handiwork of miscreants” who might have acted on the behest of a political get together.
“Whichever get together is in opposition to the current authorities could also be concerned,” he stated.
In 2018, the BJP, in alliance with a regional tribal get together, got here to energy for the primary time in Tripura, eradicating a communist authorities that had been in energy for 25 years.
Three years later, the state authorities appears to be grappling with anti-incumbency at the same time as its tribal ally loses its base to a brand new political get together shaped by Pradyot Manikya, the scion of the royal household which as soon as dominated the princely state earlier than it acceded to India in 1949.
With a lot of Bengali audio system, Tripura has additionally emerged as a key state for Mamata Banerjee, the pinnacle of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) get together and chief minister of West Bengal state.
“It’s native politics at play,” Abdul Basit Khan, a lawyer and president of North Tripura district’s TMC unit, advised Al Jazeera.
Khan alleged that VHP members ransacked his home on October 21 when his household was away. “They wish to consolidate Hindu votes and terrorise the Muslim voters.”
TMC parliamentarian Sushmita Dev stated her get together’s entry into Tripura has “disturbed the established order”.
“Now there’s a competitors which is bothering them,” she advised Al Jazeera.
The state will vote to elect a brand new authorities in 2023.
Jitendra Chaudhury, the chief of the state unit of the Communist Get together of India (Marxist), stated the BJP is “making an attempt to divert consideration” from the problems of governance by splitting individuals alongside spiritual traces.
“There’s complete lawlessness and the BJP was maybe making an attempt to make the most of the scenario in Bangladesh to polarise the state,” he stated.
BJP spokesman Nabendu Bhattacharjee claimed the Left was behind the violence to destabilise the state. “It’s their IT cell which is answerable for pretend social media posts,” he stated.
Again within the Rowa market, Manik Nath, a Hindu businessman has a distinct set of worries.
“It has been seven days since any Muslim got here to my store,” he stated. “I hope the lengthy, cordial relationship we now have shared doesn’t break due to this unlucky episode.”