A team of concerned peace activists working among the communities affected by communal conflicts in Gujarat and Maharashtra and associated with All India Secular Forum visited Assam from 22nd to 26th of August, 2012.
We visited Motilal Bagodiya M V School and Puran Bijni Batinia High School and Mogolian High School relief camps in Bijni (Chirang). We visited Chapar Girls High School and L P High School relief camps in Chapar (Dhubari). We also visited Kakrikola GMDE School relief camp in Bangalduban part –I (Kokrajhar). We also met CM of Assam, academicians, media personnel and members of civil society organizations.
We were pained by the stories of sufferings due to inhuman manmade tragedy in camps. We talked to Bodos, Rajbangshies and Muslims. The tears of the victims were painful and their testimonies full of anger and reflected feelings of helplessness which moved us. Their complaints were almost same of mobs attacking and burning their houses and freely using firearms and other weapons to terrorize them.
Victims complained that sporadic violence was ongoing and peace had not been restored fully. Continuous conflict made victims anxious and insecure, deterring them from returning back to their villages. Victims had anxiety about animals, which were stolen, property that had destroyed and livelihood that had lost which forced them to live like beggars in their own land. They were traumatized beyond description. They could not visit their villages out of fear of physical attacks on them. They lost confidence in police and state security forces.
Victims felt helpless at the repetitive ethnic and communal conflicts that were ongoing within BTAD for more then two decades.
1. We feel that conflicts are exacerbated by lack of development and lack of livelihood opportunities. This situation creates fertile ground for identity and sectarian based organizations to arm themselves and bargain with the state for their share within limited resources and opportunities. These armed militias become aggressive and law unto them selves. The state has unfortunately failed to hold these armed militias accountable to law.
2. Increasing free circulation of firearms is a serious concern that obstructs law and order. State seems to have lost will to arrest free circulation of firearms in the hands of certain groups.
3. Free circulation of firearms may tremendously expand sphere of influence of fundamentalist forces and armed militias.
4. The state denial of citizenship of section of people and listing them as doubtful citizens arbitrary just to satisfy certain sectarian political forces.
5. The conditions of the camps we visited were abysmal to say the least. Inadequate relief and lack of planning of rehabilitation according to sphere standards with regards to adequate space, provision of education, health facilities, protection and trauma counseling.
We resolve to work for justice and try to restore peace in these circumstances. We understand the need of urgency of peace.
Fr. Rajeev SJ.