Clue­less on a Vol­cano

India Today - - INSIDE - By Kaushik Deka

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

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