Assam riots: Of ghost towns and relief camps, 4 lakh people displaced

Assam riots: Of ghost towns and relief camps, 4 lakh people displaced
Kokrajhar (Assam):  45 people have been killed in ethnic clashes in Assam and nearly four lakh people are now housed in 200 relief camps, said Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today. He aggressively denied that his government had denied an alert from the Centre about the escalating tension that spiralled into a national crisis.

"I kept telling Centre we need more Central forces... The MHA hasn't provided me with any intelligence report. I haven't got any information that there is going to be such a flare-up...If they had, why didn't they send the army immediately...We wanted the army from day one of the crisis and now when it is there, the situation is gradually limping back to normal," Mr Gogoi said.

Tomorrow, the Prime Minister, a Rajya Sabha MP from the state, will visit affected areas in lower Assam like Kokrajhar. 

The Commerce College in Kokrajhar has not seen a single class for over ten days. When the riots began a week ago, it was turned overnight into a relief camp to house hundreds of indigenous tribals or Bodos, who left their homes anyway they could - in bullock carts, trucks overloaded with people desperate for refuge. These are families whose homes were set on fire in the clashes that erupted a week ago between Bodos and the Bengali Muslims in the area. (Read: Top 10 facts)

Four rooms and an auditorium at the college have been turned into a dormitory. Twice in a day, meals are served - a small portion of dal and rice, served on banana leaves. There are nearly 5,000 people accommodated here.

They say there is no question of returning to their homes, even if security is provided to their villages, some of them just 30 km from here. Some allege paramilitary forces stood by and refused to help, as their homes were set on fire. The Congress government led by Chief Minister Gogoi has to win the trust of these people who were failed completely by state machinery. (Watch: Woman shot at torched relief camp)

On Friday morning , a survivor who did not want to be identified, shared with NDTV a video of the ruins of a relief camp just 35 kms from Kokrajhar. So stark were its images of vandalism and arson that we decided to corroborate its content by visiting the spot. The roads are that, only in name. It took 90 minutes to get there.
 
The local school that had been turned into a relief camp was empty. Assam_relief_camp_torched_295x200.jpgThere were scorched utensils, some with half-cooked food within, an indication of the urgency with which people abandoned this supposed shelter. School bags, clothes, some of them charred, were strewn around. Four vehicles had been set on fire.

The main school building had also been torched, the roof was destroyed. This place was meant to offer refuge to those who had been driven from their home. Instead, it left them exposed and vulnerable. The few people we meet at a market nearby do not want to share where these families have moved onto. It's hard to trust anyone.


Story First Published: July 27, 2012 12:56 IST

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