Saturday, December 4th, 2021

of the class teachers walks up to us with folded hands,

They find it hard to take their eyes off an iron-grilled window that offers a view of the neighbouring compound.

One of the class teachers walks up to us with folded hands, saying, “Hope all is well, sir, and nothing to worry?”

A single-storied mosque damaged by a stone-pelting mob stands next door. Inside, there are broken doors hammered by bricks, twisted fan-blades and shattered windowpanes.

Anti-Muslim violence flares up in Indian state of Tripura
The Chamtila mosque is surrounded by both Hindu and Muslim homes but most people prefer to stay indoors after more than 10 incidents of religious violence were reported from the district of North Tripura in October.

Local reports said some mosques were vandalised and burnt down during the violence. Bhanu Pada Chakraborty, a senior police official in the district, denied reports of mosques being torched, but said some had been vandalised, without confirming a number.

There are disturbing scenes a mile further north of Chamtila, where at least five shops were burnt by the same mob that vandalised the mosque. All shops belong to minority Muslims in the Rowa village.

Three shops have been totally gutted by the fire. Ameeruddin, who owns one of them, has fallen back on his savings to sustain a family of five.

The Chamtila mosque is surrounded by both Hindu and Muslim homes.
Image caption,
The Chamtila mosque is surrounded by both Hindu and Muslim homes
“I was standing right across the paddy field when a mob attacked our village market. Since they could not reach our homes due to some police presence, their wrath turned towards these shops, which are closed in the afternoon for a few hours,” he told me.

The police said they were investigating complaints about the damage to the mosque and shops.

The attacks followed a huge rally taken out on 26 October by the hardline Hindu organisation, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) – a close ally of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – and half a dozen other religious groups in the border town of Panisagar. They were protesting against recent attacks on Hindus in neighbouring Bangladesh, which encircles Tripura on three sides.

Tripura has been run by BJP since 2018 after 25 years of Communist rule. The opposition has blamed the ruling party of trying to mix religion with politics to win elections, an allegation the BJP strongly denies.

“I feel minority Muslims are safer under our government. We are closely knit communities and whatever happened is unfortunate. Our political opponents try to defame PM Narendra Modi since we are part of seven ruling governments in the north-east,” Biswa Bandhu Sen, deputy speaker of Tripura’s Legislative Assembly and a BJP legislator from North Tripura, told me.

Muslims make up less than 9% of Tripura’s 4.2 million population which has 83% Hindus, many of whom arrived from Bangladesh.

 

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