After staying in a refugee camp for over a month; the biggest concern of Shamshul Basumatary, who fled his home in the face of violence at Noapara village in Chirang district late in July, is that the standing paddy crop in his field will be destroyed if he does not return to tend his fields soon. Fear of fresh reprisals has been keeping him from returning.
However, on Thursday, he was a little more hopeful of his return as leaders of the minority community as well as representatives from the Bodo community arrived at the Mongolian Bajar Camp in Chirang district and urged the 350 inmates sheltered there to go back home.
In an attempt to persuade thousands like Mr. Basumatary to return home, a delegation comprising leaders of both communities came together and visited five camps in Bongaigoan and Chirang districts during the day — the first such visit since the ethnic conflict started. About 2 lakh people are still residing in the 213 camps in different districts.
The delegation was led by Congress MLAs Bhupen Borah and Rana Goswami. The administration could not provide security to every person, and unless people were convinced that they could return, peace could not be restored in the region, they said.
“Once you return home, the district administration will provide necessary relief material in the next 48 hours,” Mr. Borah told the inmates.
“This is our new initiative to win over the confidence of those sheltered in the camps by visiting the camps and trying to convince them to return home,” Speaker of the Bodoland Territorial Administration Legislative Council Paneram Brahmo said who was also in the delegation.
However, most of the inmates are far from convinced. “Nobody wants to stay in the refugee camp. What we want from you is only to ensure our own safety,” Kiramat Ali, who fled his home from Dakhinmakra area of Chirang district, told members of the delegation at a camp in Goraimari in Bongaigaon district.
“Nothing left for us”
While many are eagerly waiting to return home, for some the very thought infuriates them. “There is nothing left for us to return to. Our house was razed to the ground. Life will never be the same for us again,” Bijoy Basumatary a resident of the Noapara area of Chirang district fumed.
“The effort to bring leaders of both communities together and assure people that the administration will provide them security can show a way out of the humanitarian crisis,” said Shahnawaj Pramanik, working President of the All BTC Minority Students Union, another member of the delegation.
With each day in the camp, life poses new challenges. It is raining all afternoon and the firewood collected after a day’s ordeal is getting wet.
“How are we going to cook this evening? We do not have place to store the firewood,” said Anwara Khatun, a refugee. “Many families do not have utensils to cook their food. Utensils are shared, as is food. But how does one light the fire? It is so damp here,” he said.