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In Assam paddy ripens, but people fear to go for harvesting

By Ujjal Borah, Fri, 17 Oct 2008 NI Wire

When we reached Bhakatpara M.E. School and L.P. School Relief camps in Darrang district of Assam on October 16, it was ten past half and the sun was bestowing its ample light and heat that made us sweat at large. In spite of the irritating heat, we approached towards the refugees who were staring at us with great astonishment. It looked as if they were thinking of us as their saviours or may be they saw a little hope in us who would lift them from this disgrace!

When I moved towards them, I noticed a great sense of insecurity and uncertainty looming in their eyes. “On that terrible day, Mama and I were doing household works in the morning when suddenly we heard uproar of people. Till we could understand what was happening, we could see houses of our locality burning and a horrible moment in our life came. It was about 9 or 10 am only. In the broad daylight, a large number of minority people of our nearby areas were coming to attack our village and they were so violent that they even forgot that these were the people with whom they were in friendship and living for years. We fled from the spot and ran away from our village, 2No Jhargaon towards Bhakatpara for the sake of our lives. About dozen people of our locality have been hacked to death and lots of others injured who couldn’t flee immediately. Our house has been burnt and looted by the miscreants,” 17-year old Sumita Mushahary recalls the terrible day of October 3 when the fire of hatred and violence erupted in various places of Darrang and Udalguri.

Sumita along with her brother Arnin and mother Pramila have been passing their terrible days at the Bhakatpara relief camp with great uncertainty of their future. Sumita is an HS first year student and her brother, a second year student of Bhakatpara Higher Secondary School at Puniya near Bhakatpara. Since the weeklong violence between indigenous Bodo and the minorities (most of who have been alleged as the illegal Bangladeshi migrants), the normal life of the people of the two districts has been disrupted and sense of distrust, insecurity and fear prevails.

The schools and colleges of the disturbed areas of the two districts have been closed for a month now and education of at least 40,000 children has been at halt. The books, clothes and other necessary things of them have been turned to ashes.

The story of Sumita and Arnin is the universal story of more than two lakh-distressed families of the two districts today. The faces may be different but the agony, the pain, the uncertainty, the insecurity and the despair of around two lakh people of the region is same. It is inseparable from one person to another according to caste and religion. All are victims of great hatred and violence, which, according to some experts, were initiated by separatists or fundamentalists or some politicians.

A total of around 2 lakh displaced people were initially in the relief camps of the two districts; of course, some fifty thousand people have returned to their homes. But the remaining people in the camps are finding it difficult to return to their villages due to the sense of insecurity. It seems, gradually, normalcy has been coming to the region, but still people are reluctant to move to their homes from the relief camps until and unless they are not provided with adequate security.

Suphala Sangma and Paolina Sangma of Warpara, Garo Basti of the locality say that three of their relatives have been hacked to death in front of the Darrang SP, Imdadul Huussain Borah on that horrible period of cruelty, but the police officer was the silent spectator of that brutal murder. “Being a police officer, he should have to make sure of our life and security, but on the other hand, he instigated the miscreants only,” a sad Paolina retorted to this correspondent remembering her relatives.

The people of Darrang are at rage against the administration for its inaction for the misdoings of SP Hussain Borah although there are authentic proof and valid allegations against him. The Bodo Peace Forum, Bodo Sahitya Sabha, AASU, ABSU and different organisations have been demanding immediate action against the police officer, but mysteriously, the government is paying a deaf ear to all these cries.

Meanwhile, another important thing we came to know at the camps is that the paddies are ripening in the fields, but people are feared to go for harvesting. In some places like Ikrabari, 2No Jhargaon, Puniya and Bhakatpara, a few of them go to harvest in the vigilance of security forces, but all dare not to take risk of their lives. Zamba Daimary of Ikrabari said that he had 12 bighas of land, all the paddies were ripening, but he feared to go for harvesting as his fields were situated near minority villages. So majority of them are obsessed with the fear of not getting enough to consume in the next year.

Another major problem arises in the form of diarrhoea, Cough, fever, and other ailments in the camps, due to scarcity of pure drinking water and consummation of low-quality relief materials provided by the Government. At Kahibari camp, 40 to 50 persons have been suffering from different diseases regularly and going under treatment. Specially, the condition of women and children are very awful in the camps.

The same situation prevails in other relief camps of the districts, too, namely, Bhakatpara L.P. School, Bhakatpara M.E. School, Takibari, Khairakata, Burhigaon, Udalguri Girls’ High School, Dhula Chuburi L.P. School, Kajiamati High School relief camps, etc. According to authorities, there are 44 relief camps in Darrang and 43 in Udalguri districts right now, but the story of agony of the homeless people are the same.

It is very pathetic to learn that about hundred of babies were born in the relief camps during the days of this horror under very unhygienic conditions. There is no proper medical staff available in the camps and in the nearby areas to take care of the new mothers. Of late, of course, the local administration is monitoring such type of cases in the camps, as is claimed.

Meanwhile, miscreants have gutted into fire ten houses in some parts of Darrang district on Friday (October 17) and three in Rowta on Thursday (October 16). With this fresh violence, the situation in the region has become tense again. Security forces had to open fire to control the situation.

-- Ujjal Borah from the relief camps of Darrang and Udalguri, Assam --

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