One classroom is all that’s available in Tripura, India’s north-eastern State.
It is difficult for them to look away from the iron-grilled windows that offer a view over their neighbouring property.
A class teacher walks up to us and says, “Hope everything is well sir. And nothing to worry.”
The mosque is one-story and was destroyed by the stone-pelting mob. There are also broken windows, fan blades and bricks that have been used to smash the doors.
- Tripura, an Indian state that is home to anti-Muslim violence, has seen a rise in the number of incidents.
While the Chamtila Mosque is surrounded both by Hindu and Muslim houses, many prefer to be indoors. In October, there were 10 reports of violent acts of religion in North Tripura.
Some mosques were reported to have been vandalized and set on fire during violence. Bhanu Padachakraborty was a high ranking police officer from the district. He denied reports that some mosques had been torched. However, he said that several were vandalized, although he couldn’t confirm the number.
One mile farther north, Chamtila is home to disturbing scenes. At least five shops have been set on fire in the exact same way that the mob vandalized and destroyed the mosque. The shops are all owned by Rowa Village’s minority Muslims.
The fire destroyed three shops. Ameeruddin who is the owner of one of these shops, had to resort to his savings in order for his family of five.
I was in the middle of the paddy fields when they attacked our village’s market. He said that they were unable to reach us because of the presence of police officers. His rage turned toward these shops which have been closed for several hours in the afternoon.
According to police, they are investigating reports about damage to shops and mosques.
Following a massive rally by Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu extremist organisation, the attacks were carried out. This was a close ally for India’s Bharatiya Janata Party. They protested against attacks on Hindus from Bangladeshi neighbouring Tripura, which is on three sides.
After 25 years under Communist rule, Tripura is now run by the BJP. The opposition accuses the ruling party for trying to blend religion and politics to win elections. A claim the BJP strongly refutes.
I feel that minority Muslims will be safer in our government. It is a close-knit community and it was unfortunate that this happened. Our political adversaries try to defame pm Narendra Modi, since we are part in seven ruling governments in the north east,” Biswa bandhu Sen (deputy speaker, Tripura’s Legislative Assembly) and a BJP legislator hailing from North Tripura told me.
Tripura has a population of 4.2million people, with less than 9% being Muslims. 83% Hindus make up the remainder. Many of them are from Bangladesh.
Many people have lived together for years and are now in shock at the sudden increase in communal frenzy.
Initial reports indicated that there were around 3000 participants at the rally, however the police think it was much higher.
The rally attracted around 10,000 participants. Both Hindus and Muslims are currently being investigated for undue provocation. “Muslims marched through Panisagar protesting the vandalism of Panisagar’s mosque and shops,” said Mr Chakraborty.
Kadamtala is located near Panisagar and borders Assam.
Social media rumors spread that shops were being vandalized and mosques had been damaged. A huge gathering of Muslims rallied in Kadamtala to demand the arrest of all perpetrators.
Some Hindus in Churaibari, an adjacent village, claimed Muslims had targeted them. A two-storey home inhabited by the Saha family showed mobile phones videos showing a small group throwing stones and damaging two of their cars.
Sonali Saha (18) says that she is unable to fall asleep since then.
The mob arrived at my home around 10 at night and began throwing stones and bottles. “They were gone in 10-15 minutes, but they left me really afraid as my mother ran to lock all the doors and windows.” she said.
Islamuddin from the Communist Party of India ( Marxist), a local lawmaker, stated that Hindus and Muslims had been scarred by “unprecedented violence”.
He said, “Sustained efforts are required to heal them.”
Two women journalists from Tripura were detained by the state government for spreading communal discord, but they were released on bail after a few weeks. However, BJP leaders deny that any attempt was made to restrict free speech or journalism.
“We are firm believers in fair journalism. We will never attempt to limit their freedom. “It’s propaganda from some media outlets against us,” stated Mr. Sen.
Panisagar police station was summoned by the BBC to explain the purpose of our visit. They were also monitored closely by local officers while interviewing Rowa Muslim shopowners.
Although life is returning to normal in the state at the moment, worries remain about the future.
It has been hard for us, and it was also quite unbelievable. We are rebuilding our lives and hoping that this will never happen again,” stated Amir Hussain (34), whose shop was damaged partially by the mob.
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