Clueless on a Volcano
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi vacillates as fresh violence strikes fear among refugees in relief camps.
Even as Assam bleeds, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi continues to vacillate. After over 400,000 of the displaced people filled the 278 relief camps in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District ( BTAD) areas following the bloody clashes between Bodos and immigrant Muslims on July 20, Gogoi declared on August 1 that his government would send back all the refugees to their homes by Independence Day. On August 7, he changed his mind: “I did not say that I would send back the people by August 15. What I meant was that the process of rehabilitation would start on August 15.”
The U- turn only shows how clueless Gogoi is over what he himself calls a volcano and which has already claimed 78 lives. “Assam is like a volcano. It can erupt anytime. Such things ( communal violence) keep happening. It has happened earlier, it can happen again,” Gogoi said on August 7. As an explana- tion from the head of the government, it is far from satisfactory. Asom Gana Parishad President and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta says, “If such things keep happening and the government can’t control it, what’s the role of the government then? We did not expect such an immature statement from the Chief Minister.”
Gogoi seems to be content with announcing a CBI inquiry into the violence. After a brief lull after the violence on July 26, nine persons were killed in Kokrajhar and Chirang between August 5 and August 7. Gogoi claims that 170 people allegedly involved in the riots have been arrested.
A seven- year- old Muslim boy from Bhowraguri village in Chirang district has not yet recovered from the death of his 55- year- old father and 18- year- old brother. The boy’s family has been staying at a relief camp in Bhowraguri since April 23 after their house was set on fire. On August 5, the three had secretly left the camp to broker a sale of cows at a weekly market in Kajalgaon. They were waylaid by around 25 tribal youths who hacked the boy’s father and brother to death. He fled and returned to the relief camp. The boy and his 37- year- old mother are now too scared to return to their village.
It is this fear that the attackers continue to exploit. Even the Bodos are not willing to leave the camps by Gogoi’s deadline, fearing retaliation. “We want to wait at least till five days after Eid. This government can’t give us security. We won’t leave the camp,” says Pranjit Mushahary, 34, a forest department employee who is staying at a relief camp in Gossaigaon, Kokrajhar district.
While refugees at relief camps show no inclination to return to their homes, the Bodoland Territorial Council ( BTC) has demanded that the credentials of the inmates be verified before they are rehabilitated in the BTAD areas. BTC has doubts whether all the inmates of the relief camps were displaced from the BTAD areas during the