Displaced families now have a hope of starting life afresh
When 18-year-old Ajina Khatun fled her home in Assam’s Kokrajhar district in the wake of the ethnic violence that erupted last month and arrived at a camp here, she knew that her life had changed forever. But little did she know that in a month’s time, inside this refugee camp, she would end up getting married.
Ajina, who along with 10 members of her family, had sought refuge at the Borakanda People’s Academy High School in Dhubri district, met 24-year-old Rabbil Ali, a mechanic who had come here on vacation.
They met in the first week of August and by the third, they tied the knot. The wedding was an opportunity for the over-500 inmates of the camp to celebrate. They all chipped in and even organised a feast to mark the occasion.
“If she had not come to the camp to escape the violence, I would have never had a chance to marry her,” Rabbil Ali told The Hindu on Saturday.
Rabbil had come home on a 20-day vacation and visited the camp when he heard that people had taken shelter there. For him, it was love at first sight and the desire to provide Ajina a better life outside the camp that prompted him to take the decision to marry her.
“We do not know how long we will have to stay at the camp. The girls have little security here with so many people around. Neither can we be sure that they will be able to go back to their studies. If she is married, she will not have to face the problems we face here everyday,” said Ahmed Ali, Ajina’s father.
While fear and uncertainty haunts those living in these camps, the conditions are also difficult. The quarters are so cramped that most have not managed a good night’s sleep since they got here.
According to Rezzakul Islam, Bilasipara subdivision president of the All India Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU), at least six such marriages took place in the camps in the area.
“These marriages have given a hope to the displaced families that they can start life afresh with the help of new relatives,” he said.
At the Chokapara Lower Primary School in Bilasipara subdivision of Dhubri district, a similar wedding took place on Friday. Manjura Begum (19), who had been living at the camp for over a month, married Ghiyasuddin Ahmed.
Her father, Abdul Rahim Sheikh, said the family had lost everything in the violence and had to rely on the neighbours for all the arrangements. “What did we have to give her, but the neighbours were very helpful. They managed everything and before we knew it, she was married,” Mr. Sheikh said, adding that Manjura went off to live with her husband’s family the very next day. The biggest fear for both Ajina’s and Manjura’s fathers was that the girls might have had to remain single for life, had they rejected the marriage proposals.
On Saturday, Ajina returned to the camp, a week after her wedding. She was immediately encircled by women curious to learn about her life in her new home. But Ajina had just one question on her mind. “When will we go back to our home?”