Assam relief camps: A report from grounds

K. M. Shareef General Secretary, Popular Front of India
Friday, August 17th, 2012
This report is prepared after visiting the relief camps along with Moulana Usman Baig (National President, All India Imams Council), Mohammed Khalid Rashadi (Central committee member of Social Democratic Party of India and volunteers of the NGO Rehab India Foundation Assam chapter on 11,12 &13 August 2012

Many thousands of Bengali speaking minority Muslim families, who were pushed out of their houses after ethnic violence erupted the districts of lower Assam, still remain in various relief camps. The violence by Bodo terrorists, targeting Muslims in the districts of Khokrajar, Chirang, Dhubri and Bongai Gaon was horrendous. Muslim families of these districts have to flee to the relief camps which were mostly set up 100 to 200 k.m. away from their home villages.

The Bengali speaking Muslims had been victims of violence and they were exploited many times in the past. They had been targeted by Bodo groups and other communal outfits several times in series of communal violences. These assaults were justified with the pretext that they are “infiltrators from Bangladesh”. It is not only that the government failed to act on the grounds of justice and fairness; instead they were not even considered as human beings. These people who were deprived of all basic amenities were repeatedly attacked by aggressive Bodo groups. They killed several people including women, children and raged their houses in the violence which was pre-planned and meticulously executed. It is reported that few Muslims localities tried to resist the aggressors; but Muslim families in most villages has to flee from their houses leaving all their assets and belongings due to fear of lives. During the present violence also, there are complaints about the failure of security forces in protecting the lives and properties of minorities. And there are also reports of the police forces joining hands with the Bodo rioters.

The authorities have pushed all these Muslim victims to pull their daily life in relief camps. Even now, a fortnight after the violence, people are reaching the camps. According to the report of government itself 266,700 Muslims have been displaced from their villages. In addition to those killed, several people have been reported as disappeared.

The government is distributing food materials like rice, dal and salt and chilly to these camps. Some camps do not have enough facilities; some others do not have fire woods or gas for cooking. Colleges, schools and Madrasas have been converted as relief camps. 17,000 people have been given shelter in Khokhrajar relief camp alone. There are apprehensions about the outbreak of infectious deceases since all people including men, women, pregnant, children, and old people are living together in a congested shelter. Many camps are filled with majority of children aged below 5 years and also there are lots of breast feeding babies in these camps. Maximum numbers of refugees are living in the camps which have minimum space and facilities. In many camps water is contaminated and not fit for drinking.

It is a matter of relief that some Muslim organisations and other NGOs are extending helping hand to these unfortunate human beings. The Delhi based NGO Rehab India Foundation with about 150 volunteer from its Assam chapter is active in emergency relief operations in a planned and systematic manner. Rehab volunteers surveyed the camps for 3 days from 1st August. During the surveys the volunteers mainly focused on the numbers of total male, females, children and the basic facilities which are needed immediately like water and sanitation in the camps. They also collected the details of the injured and the dead. They also listed the essential materials that the refugees did not get as part of relief kits given by government and other organizations. According to the information collected by Rehab volunteers, mosquito nets, Polythene sheets, baby foods, Candles, vegetables, buckets, Mugs, fire woods, cloths are urgently needed in the camps.

Given below is the gist of survey report prepared by Rehab volunteers by visiting 149 camps of 4 districts. Apart from these camps there are 20 camps in which 20000 people are sheltered which were not covered by the survey due to the security reasons.

Districts

Total Camps

Total Families

Total members

Chirang

17

3749

22310

Bongaigaon

15

3720

18108

Kokrajar

24

29774

130346

Dubri

93

24393

128324

Total

149

61641

299088

As a follow up of this survey aforesaid materials were bought and distributed in various camps from August 4 onwards. In First phase, 300 baby food packets each were distributed in around sixty camps. 900 kg Polythene bags, 1000 mosquito nets, 1000 candles, 1000 buckets and mugs were distributed at 58 camps in first phase. Moreover 4 trucks full of woods, 2 trucks full of vegetables, one truck full of readymade cloths were distributed in various camps. The visiting team supervised the distribution of relief kits to the victims in the camps we visited. Moreover we could instill confidence among the victims and assured them legal assistance.

More than 2000 people of 380 families are living at a relief camp opened in Bilasipura College, in Dhubri district. This has presence of people who have come from around seven villages. We have seen one pregnant woman who has reached the camp by walking from the distance 10 k. m. She gave birth to a child on the next day of reaching the camp. More than 17,000 refugees were given shelter at Hathi Dura College in Kokhrajar district. Their unanimous voice is that they should return to their houses. Governments should assure their rehabilitation. In Kokhrajar, 12,000 refugees were provided shelter at Lukrumala camp alone. Rehab volunteers are attending relief operation in all these places.

According to Nazmuddin, who was given shelter in Hapachara Camp of Bongai Gaon district, there is only one bulb in the camp for 2000 people. There is no electricity. He pleaded with us to send candles. He complained that when there is need of ambulance, it will never come. All these people should use only two toilets which are available there. In this camp we saw a baby, whose tongue has been broken and waiting for treatment. Refugees of a relief camps at Lakkipua of Bongaigaon district, says that they do not have enough place in the camp and clothes for women and children. In Kavatika camp, most of people have come from Chirang. We could find two widows who lost their husbands in the riot. One five year old boy had witnessed some miscreants killing his father. According to a victim Hakim Ali, “We would like to return our land legally; governments should provide security for us.”

The baby food packets we distributed may be enough only for 7 days. In all camps we could see children without cloths. There are limited sanitation facilities, but we could see pressing crowd to use it. Also Rehab volunteers distributed drugs in some places. But the refugees pleaded to conduct medical camp as they need check up along with essential medicines.

What should be done next?

· Pure drinking water facilities should be provided for some camps.

· Fire woods, gas should be provided.

· Cloths like saris and blouses for women, readymade cloths for children and shirts and lungis for men should be provided.

· Baby foods with more nutrition should be provided.

· Food for pregnant women.

· Arrange Medical camps and visiting doctors.

· Legal assistance.

Above all the main task is liberating these victims from relief camps and makes them to return to their houses. It is the primary duty of the Government to rehabilitate them in their own village home and provide security for them. The promise given by the Chief Minister that all refugees would return to their home before 15 August remains unfulfilled. It is not easy to provide shelters for more than three lakhs Muslim families away from their home village and also it is not the ultimate solution of the problems. The primary responsibility of a democratic government is to take them back to their ousted homes. But it is duty of all human beings to extend a helping hand to our discriminated brothers and sisters in Assam in this period of peril.

…………………………………

Assam relief camps
Muslims in Assam relief camps

Mass exodus due to ethnic violence in kokrajhar

Assam violence
Assam relief camps

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.