Hyderabad: The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Assam might be a “distant problem” for many in the twin cities as they go about their business as usual. But for a few students and professionals – all natives of the Bodoland region – living in Hyderabad, life has turned upside down in the last few days. Some of them have no clue as to what has happened to their parents and have lost all contact with them. Others, though lucky enough to be in touch with their near and dear ones, are praying for their safety and cursing themselves for not being with them.
Durga Mohan (name changed), a student of the English and Foreign Languages University, hails from Kokrajhar, the epicentre of the ongoing ethnic clashes. One question about the whereabouts of his family makes him choke. “It has been four days since I talked to them. I have been trying to contact them in vain,” he replies hiding his tears. “My place is highly vulnerable to attacks. I hope the deployment of Army will calm things down,” he adds, optimistic that his parents back home are safe. But the next moment, his fears resurface. “The tribes in the region mostly wear their traditional attire which makes them conspicuous and prone to attacks. Others can easily identify the Bodos,” he points out even as he tries to answer his own doubts and fears.
Nearly two lakh people have been rendered homeless in the violence thus far and about 125 relief camps set up. Poonam Baglary (name changed) is rather fortunate. The student of the University of Hyderabad hails from a small town called Gossaigoan. “My parents and family were travelling back to Assam and are stranded at Siliguri in West Bengal for the last four days as all the trains are stopped at the border itself,” she shares. Visibly happy in the knowledge that they are safe, she explains, “All trains to Guwahati have to pass through the riot-hit areas. Even if they catch a flight, they still have to travel for hours to reach home. So, they decided to stay on at Siliguri till everything is back to normal.”
For a few students and professionals - all natives of Bodoland - living in Hyderabad, life has turned upside down.
Sarfaraz Hussain (name changed), is, however, anxious. The man, who hails from Udalguri, works as a teacher in the city. He is in touch with his parents back home but he’s afraid of what might happen. “When similar clashes had broken out in Udalguri in the past, my parents and grandparents had to flee and stay at relief camps for over a month. This time around, they are sitting inside the house. Anything can happen any time. These kind of clashes have been going on for a while. No one has a real solution to this,” he regrets.
Wherever these Assamese go, the thought of the violence back home is at the back of their minds. Almost all of them blame political leaders for the tragedy. “It is nothing but madness. Political leaders of any community or ethnic group want the common people to be engaged in this kind of madness and forget actual problems,” opines Satyajit Baruah (name changed), who hails from Guwahati and works in a private bank in the city.
Poonam offers a different take. “Earlier, there were less number of Bangladeshis in Assam. As soon as they knew they could get equal rights in here, they started coming in larger numbers and even turned land owners doing cultivation,” she says, adding the particular region called Bodoland set up as an autonomous body in 2003 was quite underdeveloped earlier. “Now our region is developing and similarly the number of immigrants is also increasing. The Bangladeshi immigrants even hold ration cards and voter ID cards and are a majority in some parts of Assam. Good for them but this kind of violence should not be tolerated. Nobody gains in the end,” she believes.
Sarfaraz points out that schools have been turned into relief camps in Assam. “The schools were set to reopen on August 1. Now, they will not be opened. All shops are closed in several towns. Essential services are not available. The violence has spread like wildfire. This is unprecedented,” he exclaims worried at the sheer scale of the unfolding tragedy.