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Muslims and Bodos still struggle to rebuild lives
Urmila Narzary, assistant teacher at Moinatola LP School, 31 km from Kokrajhar, is tired of violence. Her husband died in 2009, two years back her house was razed by a mob of Muslim migrants and she spent six months in a relief camp with her mother-in-law Nibari, 85, in the violence which has been witnessed here and in the other three districts under Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
“I don’t want to see any more violence. But I am not sure which candidate or party can ensure peace in Bodoland. Will the next government in Delhi be able to do anything for people like us?” asked Urmila, who is also worried about the future of her two sons, one a Class XII pass, the other in Class X.
She recently built a new two-room house with three bundles of tin sheets and Rs 52,700 given by the government after their original house was burnt down in the July 2012 riots. “But I will not allow the foundation of our original house built by my husband disturbed,” said Nibari.
Pratibha and Narendra Chandra Narzary too are struggling to rebuild their house destroyed in the 2012 riots. “They took away everything — our TV, fridge, gas stove, three Godrej almirahs, furniture, cattle — and set the house on fire. We managed to save our lives because we had sensed trouble and fled,” recalled Pratibha, a primary school teacher.
While the shell of their original house still stands as a reminder to the loot and arson, the family lives in a tin house provided by an NGO. “The government gave us Rs 52,700 and tin sheets. How can we rebuild our house with that. Can any candidate come and do that for us?” said Pratibha, whose only son has just passed B Tech from a private institute near Delhi.
Muslim victims of the 2012 riots too tell the same story. “My three-room house was made of bamboo and thatch. Now our children live in one room, my wife and I sleep in the shop,” said Iuchab Ali Sheikh (42), father of five, who also works as a farm-hand in Kursakata village.
Like others, Sheikh too received the Rs 52,700. “Since I don’t own any land, where do I construct a house?” he asked. “The only thing I have of my own is my vote. I haven’t been able to decide whom to vote. Can any candidate guarantee there will be no more violence?” said Sheikh.
Parties and candidates contesting Kokrajhar (ST) constituency have all promised they will put an end to violence and killings. “Our administration rehabilitated all three-lakh families rendered homeless in the 2012 violence,” says the manifesto of Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) which rules BTC. It is an ally of the Congress and has fielded Chandan Brahma in Kokrajhar.
The All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and four other organisations who have fielded former Rajya Sabha member Urkhaw Gwra Brahma, holds BPF responsible for the violence in Kokrajhar. “Security of life and property of the common people has become a serious issue. Rehabilitation of the 2012 victim families is yet to be completed,” said the groups backing Urkhaw.
The A-janajati Suraksha Oikya Mancha, a forum demanding security to all non-tribal communities in Kokrajhar, has fielded former ULFA militant Naba Kumar Sarania. But that does not send very good signals. “Most Muslims are likely to vote for Sarania knowing if a Bodo is not elected, there will be another round of violence. But we don’t see anyone better,” said Azad Ali, a resident of Anthaibari, a village with a Bodo name but inhabited 100 per cent by migrant Muslims.