Kokrajhar: On Thursday, when we went to the Commerce College relief camp in Kokrajhar town, it was in a mess. People were scattered around in four rooms and a huge auditorium. Even basic facilities like water and a clean toilet were at a premium.
On Saturday, though the camp had undergone a dramatic transformation. Everything at the camp looked organised and clean.
The cause for this transformation: a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. At the camp, a visibly distressed Manmohan looked around, spoke to a few residents and then told the media, "This riot is a blot on the face of the nation." But not everyone was convinced by Dr Singh's words. My colleague Hridesh Joshi asked an inmate what he thought of the Prime Minister's visit. "What's the use of this photo opportunity," the young man snapped back!
Later in the day, addressing a press conference at the Kokrajhar Circuit House, the Prime Minister announced a slew of measures to tackle the situation in lower Assam. This included a dole of Rs 300 crore to the Assam government to tackle the crisis.
The highlight of the conference though, was something else. As he was about to leave, a reporter asked, "Sir, what do you think about Tarun Gogoi saying the centre is also responsible for not tackling the riots on time?" Before Manmohan Singh could say anything, an agitated Tarun Gogoi, who had stood by quietly till then, almost snatched the microphone from the Prime Minister, and shouted "I never said that!"
Strong words in front of the Prime Minister, but not enough to address the issues Dr Singh may not have sensed in Kokrajhar.
Just two days ago, a relief camp was torched by miscreants only 30 kilometres away from Kokrajhar. Today, there are reports of three bodies being discovered from a village. Many more incidents of violence are exodus of people from villages is coming to light.
At his press conference, the Prime Minister spoke about instilling a sense of security into the people living in relief camps. But no one in Kokrajhar, seems to know how that will happen.
Story first published:
July 28, 2012 18:42 IST