Thousands of Muslims have left for Dhubri, which they consider safer
A few kilometres from the spot where four former Bodo Liberation Tigers cadres were killed on July 20, triggering widespread violence in this State is Bodgaon High School where thousands of Muslims took shelter in the aftermath of the attacks.
The relief camp, which initially had about 4,000 refugees, now has around 1,500 inmates. The remaining have fled to the neighbouring district of Dhubri, which the Muslims consider safer as it is outside the Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD) area.
The facilities at the camp are nothing to write home about. No medical aid has been provided. Refugees have been provided rice and dal since Thursday, when the government stepped in. Earlier, the local residents had pooled their resources to provide them with khichri.
While the releases issued by the Office of the Deputy Commissioner make note of the distribution of baby food in the camps, Bodgaon is yet to get its first packet. While most “Bodo” camps (read “Hindu” as they also house all non-Bodos barring Muslims) have been provided with medical aid and security, these are missing in Bodgaon.
The story narrated by every victim here has a common thread. As social worker and teacher Azad Husain said: “Most of the refugees came here around July 20 and 21 when their villages were attacked by Bodos. There was firing by the miscreants and the villagers ran for their lives.’’
Around 2-3 lakh Muslims have fled their homes in around 70 villages, he said. “First they settled in camps like these and later many left for Dhubri district. But there too they face government apathy and are living a miserable life in camps.’’
Many of the refugees are worried about their loved ones who got separated in the panic.
“When we heard the sound of gunfire coming from one side, we ran in the opposite direction and in the process several families got separated,’’ said Khairul of Bhadaiguri village.
Mohammad Abu Bakr Siddiqui of Gossaigaon Bhadaiguri said he has been searching for his one-year-old daughter Azima and mother-in-law Hasina Begum, who have been missing ever since their village was attacked.
“My wife was hit by a bullet in the right shoulder while fleeing and is in the Government Medical College, Dhubri,’’ he said.
Many of the Muslims claimed that heavy gunfire was used to scare them away. Mohammad Chinu Hussain showed the calf area of his leg where a bullet had got lodged. “I took treatment at a private hospital,” he said, adding that there was no government hospital he could have gone to.
Samiran Bibi, a woman inmate, walked up to say that the lone earning member of her family, her son Sofizuddin, a mason, was also shot in the leg while fleeing the village. He is now admitted to a Dhubri hospital. “My husband is old and does not work. I also have to look after my son’s wife and his one-year-old son but now we have no source of income.’’
Many of those in the camp were employed either as agricultural labourers or masons in Kokrajhar, but ever since the violence started they have not been able to earn a penny.
Ahmed Fauziar Rehman of Parura Muslim Basti said the firing started on the first day of Ramzan on July 19. In his village, he claimed, 150 houses were torched. His grouse is that “rather than taking action against the miscreants, the police rounded up around 10 Muslim youths and took them away to the police station. Later one was released, while nine were booked for violence.’’
Those at the camp want the government to immediately provide them with medicines and clothes and set up a security camp on the road leading to Kokrajhar town so that they can resume their normal lives at the earliest. “There are some former BLT cadre who are blocking our approach. The government should get them removed at the earliest,” said Mr. Rehman.