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Post-Durga Puja violence against Hindus in Bangladesh has found a disturbing resonance in neighboring Tripura. The past few days have seen protests in the capital Agartala and other VHP and Hindu Jagran Manch towns, some of which have reportedly turned into mobilisations against local Muslims – the state of Tripura Jamaat Ulama (Hind) a submitted a petition to the Chief Minister. alleging that mosques and homes of Muslims were targeted by protesters. The BJP-led government must act firmly against the troublemakers and not allow extremists to stir up passions against the Muslim minority in Tripura, which shares a long border with Bangladesh. Tripura has its own social fault lines, a legacy of partition and migration in its wake, which fueled a violent insurgency in the 1990s. The last years of peace have helped the state rebuild its economy and become a key player in Indian Act East policy, the foundation of which is friendly relations with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

It is concerning that after nearly two decades of relative peace, the Northeast has started to simmer again. Old fault lines – of land, language, ethnicity, faith – have started to shape political mobilizations in the region again. The hardening of closer identities is now visible in Assam and Meghalaya, with state governments playing the role of facilitators of this unfortunate trend. The polarization triggered by government pressure on the NRC and CAA has not stopped in Assam, even after the Assembly elections – Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s constant contributions to ‘otherness’ and the government’s brutal expulsion campaign against Muslim peasants considered to be invaders, which resulted in the deaths of two people, may have deepened the community division. An interstate border dispute involving Assam and Mizoram resulted in the murder of six police officers in July. The anti-outsider policy in Meghalaya has been given a new lease of life with the attempt to evict a small Dalit Sikh community from its century-old encampment in Shillong. The peace deal with the NSCN-IM in Nagaland reached an impasse over the rebels’ position on the national flag and a separate constitution. Some of these are legacy issues and can only be resolved through dialogue and exploring out-of-the-box solutions in a federal setting. The region’s distinct social history and its encounter with colonialism militate against the imposition of unitary notions of identity. Politicians exploit these fault lines for small electoral gains at great cost to the nation.

Bangladesh, which has overtaken India in improving development indices in recent years, has been alert to the emergence of majority religious extremism and has firmly cracked down on Islamist groups. Sheikh Hasina’s government quickly contacted the Hindu community after the violence in Durga Puja – several arrests were made and ministers visited affected Hindu families. Such awareness can help heal strained relationships between communities. There is also a lesson here for leaders across the border.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on October 25, 2021 under the title “Un malaise qui trémit”.