Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands

Updated: January 12, 2011 15:40 IST

Nearly 50,000 people were displaced in violent ethnic clashes between two communities - the Garos and the Rabhas - along Assam-Meghalaya border. Groups of armed Rabhas and Garos were engaged in virtual war; villages were set on fire, and people fled from their homes.

The violence started during Christmas and New Year celebrations when the Rabhas attacked a wedding party of the Garos and also targeted a Garo pastor. The Garos hit back and set Rabha villages on fire. They also intercepted a passenger bus, segregated the Rabhas and brutally injured ten of them.

The clashes between the two groups continued and spilled over to the neighbouring villages and districts bringing the law and order situation on Assam-Meghalaya border to a standstill.

Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
Nearly 50,000 people have been displaced in violent ethnic clashes between two communities - the Garos and the Rabhas - along the Assam-Meghalaya border. Villages were set on fire, and people forced to flee their homes.

The violence started during Christmas and New Year celebrations when the Rabhas attacked a wedding party of the Garos and also targeted a Garo pastor. The Garos hit back and set Rabha villages on fire. They also intercepted a passenger bus, segregated the Rabhas and brutally injured ten of them. Soon, clashes between the two groups spilled over to the neighbouring villages and districts.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
Repatriation of displaced people along the Assam-Meghalaya border has begun, but considering 50,000 people have been displaced, it will take a while before the situation returns to normal.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
The Northeast is an ethnic cauldron and it is not surprising that inter-ethnic conflicts erupt at the slightest provocation. The latest conflagration led to an overwhelming force of hatred being unleashed on innocent victims who paid a heavy price for being part of one or the other ethnic group.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
An entire season's harvest was destroyed in the fire, gutting away the only means of survival of nearly an entire village. Peace talks and government assurances did little to calm those scarred by the brutality of some.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
The fire raged almost relentlessly- nearly a 1000 houses were gutted and 50,000 people displaced.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
Scores of houses were burnt and people rendered homeless. Relief camps were set up to provide food and shelter to all those who escaped the fury. A little boy at one such camp becomes the face of this man-made tragedy.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
There are about thirty such relief camps in Assam and even though relief supplies are trickling in, living conditions at these camps are very poor.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
Out in the cold, with nowhere to go, siblings guard their belongings at a relief camp.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
The gory aftermath of ten days of continuous violence.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
In search of a safe haven. This young girl's eyes speak a thousand words.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
An inconsolable Rumita Rabha who lost everything in the violence.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
A group of men guarding whatever is left from the arson.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
A young boy sits atop a burnt passenger bus.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
Army and paramilitary forces made attempts at reconciliation.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
The eagerness to return home was almost palpable after ten days of continuous violence.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
Men, women and children clambered on to Army trucks to go back to what was left after the arson.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
As chaos raged in the region, animals paid an equal price. A pregnant pig bled to death as villagers abandoned homes for fear of being attacked.
Northeast ethnic clashes displace thousands
The northeast has for decades been hit by insurgencies and tribal conflicts. Last year, a road blockade by ethnic communities crippled Manipur for months. The crisis badly hit supplies of food, fuel and life-saving drugs to the state.

As attempts at rehabilitation continue, it's the rebuilding of lives that remains a real challenge.

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