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Peace team finds Meghalaya border tense

Indian tribal people fearing further clashes are wary of returning home

Peace team finds Meghalaya border tense
Displaced tribal people at a camp in Assam, India reporter, Guwahati

February 8, 2011

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A peace team which visited victims of ethnic clashes in northeastern India says the main task relief workers have in returning people to their homes is rebuilding their confidence. “Tension prevails in relief camps. Hence the need to reduce fear and build self confidence among villagers,” said Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, who led the team. Nearly 15,000 people remain in relief camps after Rabha tribal people in Assam clashed with Garo tribal people in Meghalaya state a month ago. While the government supplies relief materials, Church workers are trying to persuade people to return to their villages, the priest explained. The peace team visited the camps on the Assam-Meghalaya border on February 4, and urged the people to return to their villages. But the villagers said they were afraid to do so. Archbishop Menamparampil said he would try to bring Rabha and Garo leaders together to iron out their problems. “The most important thing to do is to rebuild mutual confidence,” the Salesian prelate said. Several Rabha elders said they would cooperate if the Church took the initiative in bringing about peace. Local parish priest Father K. L. James said border parishes have formed committees to stay in the relief camps and give “moral support” to victims. The victims include some Garo Catholics. Government officials have asked Father James to talk to the villagers, because they respect Church leaders. According to the priest, several villagers who went back to their village, returned to their camp following a rumor they would be attacked again. Related reports Peace team rushes aid to Assam clash victims Church Distributes Aid, Works For Peace Among Clashing Groups Refugees From Decade-Old Ethnic Clashes Continue Living In Relief Camps IE13188.1640
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