Fear palpable on both sides

Assam violence: Bodos and Adivasis remain in dread

Fear palpable on both sides

The scene on both sides of the Bodo and non-Bodo is not much different. The fear is palpable and despondency makes the air feel heavy.

If in most places of Bodo-ruled Kokrajhar and Chirang districts in Assam, non-Bodos have suffered, at Sonitpur, near the Arunachal Pradesh border, Bodos have faced the brunt of the December 23 militant attack on Adivasis.

While the toll stands at 83, most of them Adivasis, around 14 Bodos have died in retaliatory attacks by Adivasis in some parts of Kokrajhar and Sonitpur, as the situation took an ethnic turn.

The anguish and fear is the same along the state highway all the way to Sonitpur, traversing through the Bodoland districts of Kokrajhar, Chingra, Udalguri and Baksa.
The situation at Sonitpur continues to remain volatile even after almost a week after the militant attacks.

Although even at the Bodo heartland in Kokrajhar they have suffered some loss of lives and property, cut off from the Bodoland Territorial Council area at Sonitpur, they seemed more on the guard.

Village after village along the highway, the story is the same. Both communities are fearful of each other but Bodos more so because they have more to lose, in terms of pride and property.

A walk into the Bodo refugee of Dharampur reveals that residents are living in panic, ever-apprehensive of an attack by Adivasis. While the state administration has put most villagers in refugee camps for safety reasons, none of them have the courage to walk down the road that leads to an Adivasi village almost next door.

Mainaopur is one such village where Adivasi rage found expression in carnage and mayhem.

The village is surrounded on three sides by the Adivasi villages of Labdanguri, Rakhatola and Sheddamari.

On December 24, Adivasis descended on Mainaopur in large numbers and left  a trail of bloodshed. Phoolmati Musahary, who lost her husband, Pradip, to the attack, returned to her gutted house for the first time on December 29, five days after the attack.

Her granary, with most of the season’s harvest, continues to burn even after so many days. “When they attacked, we all fled. They shot arrows at us. My husband was hit and fell. I returned to find him dead,” she said. Daiden Narzary was running when an arrow hit him in the leg but he managed to escape into the nearby jungle.

“Initially we tried to retaliate but they were much more in number. Three of our villagers died and four are seriously injured,” he said. Nizhom Basumatary’s 73-year-old father was killed in the attack.

“He was hit by three arrows. I found his body in a ditch. They shot arrows into his stomach. He bled to death at the spot,” she said.

The scene is similar at Bodo villages like Lakhmipur, Chandrapur, Jimaguri, Jampiguri and Sonapur.

While most people are living in refugee camps, senior administrative officials are encouraging villagers to move to camps rather than live in their homes at night.

“Given the situation of terror and mistrust between the two communities right now it’s better for people to live in camps under the watchful eyes of security forces,” an official said.

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