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Assam violence: Victims reluctant to leave relief camps

NARAYANGURI(BAKSA): Over a week has passed since violence erupted in Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD), killing over 40 and displacing many more. Even though there have been no fresh incidents of violence, a new worry has gripped those who have sought refuge in relief camps. Villagers in the Narayanguri camp, under Gobardhan police station in Assam’s Baska district, are not sure when, if at all, they will be able to return to their native villages.

“We are not in the condition to say anything,” said an inconsolable Samsul Ali who lost his 18-year-old son Rameej Ali to the violence. Ali, who hails from Khagrabari village, added, “We don’t know what to do now. We were living peacefully, but suddenly, everything has been ruined. We don’t have the courage to go back anymore.”

Ali’s family, along with countless others, spends its days in a plastic tent on an open field. Too tired to even complain, Ali’s sister-in-law Ajmela Khatun said, “After losing your family members, nothing makes much sense anymore. We don’t mind if the government does not compensate us. All we want is a sense of security to continue our lives normally.”

The relief camp, set up by the district administration on the eastern side of the Beki river, has housed around 500 people since May 2, when terrorists killed at least 26 people in Narayanguri and Hagrabari villages on the western side of the river.

The uncertainty and fear in the minds of the villagers are aptly summed up by Rabiul Hussain, another camp inmate. “Now security personnel are everywhere, but once they go, we may face the same fate. This is why people don’t want to return. We urge the state government to set up police outposts in the interior areas of the villages. This will be more helpful than mere compensation.”

The BTAD violence is suspected to be the handiwork of rebels belonging to the Songbijit faction of National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB). However, the militant outfit has denied any involvement. A few state cabinet ministers have also accused Bodoland People’s Party (BPF) chief Hagrama Mohilary and senior leader Pramila Rani Brahma of making inflammatory speeches against Muslims in the area, triggering the backlash.

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