Compensation and ration inadequate, feel people of BTAD

Houses and granaries were razed, cattle and other livestock looted and hand tube-well heads taken away when violent clashes broke out in July in Kokrajhar and neighbouring districts of Assam forcing people to take shelter in relief camps.

After nearly three months’ stay in relief camps, the refugees have now returned home, thanks to the official rehabilitation process, with 21 tin sheets, a tarpaulin sheet, six pieces of bamboo, a cheque for Rs. 22,700 as rehabilitation grant and ration of rice, dal and salt to last them just a month. Most of these families have only one piece of blanket and no woollens though winter is knocking at the door.

Thousands of displaced families in Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) who have returned home are now grappling with endless woes of rehabilitation.

Yet to get grant

More than a week since their return from the camps, the displaced families of Dangaibari, the Muslim villages and Aminkhata and the nearby Bodo villages in Kokrajhar district have not been able to start any new cultivation. For, there are no cattle left and the miscreants have taken away tractors, power tillers and shallow tubewell pumpsets. Many families are yet to get the rehabilitation grant, while some who got it don’t have bank accounts to encash them.

At Dangaibari village, some families have constructed makeshift shelters with tarpaulin sheets and bamboos on their land. Some others have built a cluster of such shelters in an open area.

Village headman Sumer Ali told The Hindu on Monday that of the 74 families in the village, only 29 figure in the list for grant. Only 13 families have received the cheques and tin sheets. “We don’t know how to rebuild our lives. We are farmers but now we have no means to resume agricultural activities,” he said. “Every family has lost at least three or four houses. The materials and rehabilitation grant are inadequate even to build one semi-permanent structure to accommodate all the family members.”

Village anganwadi worker Sakila Khatun has reopened the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) centre in the village. She said that about 100 children now regularly attend the centre, but they were not being provided food because miscreants had taken away all the utensils.

Tales of woe

The stories of 58-year-old headman Lalmohan Goyari and other residents of Aminkhata Bodo village are no different. “The miscreants took away the cattle, tractors and power tillers after razing our houses. How will we till our land now?” asks Mr. Goyari. His wife was seen clearing the debris and clearing the land for building a makeshift shelter. So far, 72 of the 133 families whose houses were destroyed have received rehabilitation grants.

The womenfolk and children of Aminkhata and adjacent Bodo villages are still staying in the Gambaribil relief camp although the authorities have closed it down. “The women come to the village to help clear the debris till 3 p.m. and then return to the camp. They can return only after some makeshift structure is raised,” said Mr. Goyari.

Be it Bodo or Muslim villages, the fear of fresh attack still lingers. Despite round-the-clock patrolling by contingents of the CRPF, the villagers are taking turns as night guards and sleep in groups.

A waiting shed at one entrance to Aminkhata village is the point where Muslims of nearby villages are allowed to come and discuss mutual issues with the village headman and other residents of the Bodo village. “We have agreed to divide the harvest from the paddy fields 50:50 with those from the nearby Muslim villages who worked as sharecroppers in our fields and cultivated paddy,” said Mr. Goyari, owner of 52 bigha of cultivable land.

However, the Bodo villages have clamped a ban on commercial transactions such as buying or selling of vegetables or other produce at the village markets with the residents of the nearby Muslim villages.