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Agencies cannot access strife-torn Assam

Strict curfew is blocking aid efforts

  • Lissy Maruthanakuzhy and Ritu Sharma, Guwahati
  • India
  • July 27, 2012
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Christian relief agencies say they are struggling to access areas of Assam rocked by violence between Muslims and Bodo tribespeople.

Authorities have imposed a shoot-on-sight policy and a strict  curfew in the worst-hit areas of Kokrajhar district, which makes movement extremely difficult.

Kokhrajhar is the headquarters of the Bodoland Territorial Council, an autonomous region in Assam state that has witnessed ethnic and religious violence for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 percent of Assam’s Bodo population is thought to be Christian.

The latest outbreak of violence in the area began on July 20, when Bodo people accused Muslims of killing four youths. This led to a devastating cycle of attacks and counter-attacks.

With the death toll climbing to 44 today, churches and schools are now serving as relief camps for almost 200,000 people who have been left homeless as a result of the clashes.

Babita Alick, head of the disaster management team for Caritas India, said that access to the worst hit areas was virtually impossible. However, she added that Caritas hoped to provide food and medical assistance from Sunday.

Train services resumed yesterday, allowing some people to leave the area, but most have to stay where they are.

“The curfew in the affected areas is a handicap so we are still trying to assess the damage,”  said Amrit Gilsmith, a Baptist Christian leader based in Guwahiti.

“All we are doing now is praying in all of our churches and planning our next course of action."

Sister Jacoba, superior of the Missionaries of Charity Sisters community in Bongaigaon, 32 kilometers from Kokrajhar, said they had made two unsuccessful attempts to reach the affected areas.

Bodo women were attending regular prayer services in their church, she added.

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