GUWAHATI India (Reuters) - The bodies of four men have been recovered from a river in a remote part of northeastern India that saw sectarian violence in the run-up to the national election in May, police said on Sunday, raising fears of a fresh round of clashes.
Any new flare-up would be an early test of whether new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist who swept to power in late May, can manage the tensions that sporadically erupt among India’s diverse population of 1.2 billion people.
One body was found on Saturday in the Beki river, which flows through Assam state’s Baksa district, and three were found on Sunday, a senior police official told Reuters.
Assam has a history of clashes between militants from the Bodo ethnic group and Muslims, whom the militants accuse of being illegal immigrants from nearby Bangladesh. Bodo people follow the local Bathouist religion.
Forty-one Muslims were killed by suspected Bodo militants two months ago in and around Baksa, during the five-week general election that brought Modi to power. The then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, condemned the violence but Modi did not comment upon it during his daily rallies.
The dead man found on Saturday was identified as one of four lemon traders who went missing on Friday on their way to a wholesale market, said L.R. Bishnoi, an inspector general of police responsible for Baksa.
The other three bodies were yet to be identified. All four had injuries but did not have bullet wounds, Bishnoi said.
The names of the four men who had been reported missing indicated that they were of Muslim heritage.
Police suspect that Bodo militants are behind this weekend’s violence but no arrests have yet been made, Bishnoi said. The army has been deployed to Baksa and a curfew is in place.
Modi left India on Sunday for Brazil, where he will be attending a summit of the BRICS grouping of emerging economies on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Writing by Shyamantha Asokan; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Susan Fenton