Indian bishop: Help the 400 thousand Assam refugees

October 25, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Bishop Thomas Pulloppilil, the Diocese of Bongaigaon, appeals to bishops, religious leaders and people of goodwill in the country. The violence of July between Bodo tribals and Muslim settlers led to 90 deaths and hundreds of thousands displaced. NGOs and Catholic groups continue to bring basic necessities. The need to set up a nursery for children.

Assam RrefugeesAssam, October 24, 2012: “Economic aid” is urgently needed to “support and rehabilitate” the victims of clashes between Bodo tribals and Muslim settlers, which in July have plunged Assam into the midst of violence. Through AsiaNews, Msgr. Pulloppilil Thomas, Bishop of Bongaigaon, appeals to bishops, religious superiors and men of good will in India. “The violence – says the bishop – caused 90 deaths and more than 400 thousand refugees. The internal exodus is the largest ever since India’s independence.”

The riots erupted on the night between 21 and 22 July last, when unidentified gunmen killed four young people in the district of Kokrajhar, an area populated by Bodo. According to the police reconstruction, some tribals revenged themselves, attacking Muslims, held responsible for the killing. The violence erupted uncontrollably, with different groups setting fire to cars, homes and schools, and shooting at people in crowded places.

Bishop Pulloppilil says: “I personally visited the affected areas, because they belong to my diocese. Through our diocesan groups – the Bongaigaon Gena Seva Society and the Inter Church Peace Mission (ICPM) – and with the help of some NGOs we have brought rice, salt, baby food, mosquito nets and cooking utensils to refugees. “Moreover, he adds, “we have organized several meetings between Bodo and Muslim leaders to try to re-establish peaceful relations.” The aid groups have paid particular attention to health care and hygiene to prevent the spread of diseases.

For the moment, not all the displaced – both tribal and Muslim – have found an alternative to the refugee camps. According to information available at present, at least 150 thousand people are being housed in 163 tents, in the Assam districts of Bongaigaon, Chirag, Kokrajhar and Dhubri.

In addition to daily survival, there is a new threat on the horizon. “Now that the winter is coming – says the prelate – life in the camps will become much, much harder. Refugees are in need of blankets, sheets, warm clothes. We need homes with sanitary services, agricultural implements, oxen for plowing, school supplies for children. Currently, we are setting up ‘balwadis’ (nurseries) to allow children to study.”

– asianews

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