One Month After Assam Violence, Returning Home Still Not an Option for Many of Those Affected

One Month After Assam Violence, Returning Home Still Not an Option for Many of Those Affected

In the wake of the violence, over 50,000 people had taken shelter in relief camps.

Guwahati: 16 tribal students at a relief camp in Assam's Deosiri are to appear for their class 10 exams in February. They have only a few books to prepare for the crucial examinations - the rest were burnt when Bodo militants set fire to their homes in December.

Since then, they and thousand others have lived in make-shift relief camps in Chirang, 50-60 people to a room.

"We have our matriculation exam, but we don't have adequate books, we are getting some help from local NGOs but it's not enough," said a student Binod Toppo. 

It has been exactly a month since Bodo militants killed over 80 tribals across three districts in Assam, sending well over 50,000 people, both tribals and Bodos, to relief camps in Sonitpur, Chirang and Kokrajhar.

Since then, almost every other day the Assam Police or the Indian Army has announced either the killing of a top militant or the arrest of cadres of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) or then a weapons haul.

"Ever since the December 23 incident, we have run major operations, especially on the Indo Bhutan border and many security agencies have been involved," said L R Bishnoi, the Inspector General for the Bodoland Autonomous areas in Assam.

But at relief camps like Nangdalbari in Chirang, hundreds of tribals say that they are still afraid and that returning home is still not an option. Camp leader Shyam has in fact complained of a lack of security, especially at night, in the camp. "Till today we don't have security. So at night the young people at this camp patrol the area and use bows and arrows for protection," he said.

About 10, 000 people, both tribals and Bodos, are still in relief camps at Chirang.

At the Deosiri relief camp, 40-year-old Sumi gave birth to a girl eight days ago, with almost no help at hand. Her family says there are no medical facilities for a newborn.

It is not just the tribals who are afraid. At relief camps like Longsung, Bodos who have fled their homes fearing revenge attacks by tribals for the December killings, have still not returned home either. Here, Nirmal Narzary, the camp leader complained of a lack of rations.

The Assam government has repeatedly promised to ensure a safe return home for people at the camps. But they will clearly need much more confidence, before they can think of rebuilding their lives.
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