A fact-finding team that returned from a three-day visit to the riot-hit areas of Assam recommended a judicial probe into the riots.
The team members were Shabnam Hashmi, senior activist, Anhad and member, National Integration Council, Gangan Sethi, activist, Centre for Social Justice and Navaid Hamid, member, National Integration Council.
“A three-member judicial team with a retired Supreme Court judge should investigate the situation and submit a report in three to six months time,” said Hamid.
“After going to Assam and meeting people, the clarity has been blurred. I would like to strongly condemn the tragedy being utilized for political gains,” said Hashmi.
Sethi said that there was a discrepancy in the number of people killed and the huge exodus of four lakh people. “Most people ran away before their houses were burnt. This indicates that there was not an immediate polarization but larger fear psychosis that led to huge exodus,” he said.
The team admitted that schools where the relief camps are being housed cannot remain closed for long as that would be a violation of RTE Act. But it is too early to close down the camps. The enumerations of the rehabilitation package for four lakh people have just started. “The camps cannot be closed down by August 15 unless the state acts with great alacrity,” he said.
“Most of the relief camps are being managed by communities themselves. There is a stress on the Muslim camps for facilities. The most popular demand from these camps is for clothes whereas the Bodo camps have more sophisticated demands like gynaecological assistance,” informed Sethi.
Hamid said there is hint of corruption in the distribution of relief material. “The government announced Rs 500 for distribution of clothes. The district administration had given away one saree and one lungi per family which in my estimate would not cost more than Rs 200,” he said.
“In Bodo camps women are cooking fish and vegetables whereas in Muslim camps women were crying due to lack of food. The Bodo people are educated, aware and possess leadership qualities. The Muslims are scared and unaware,” he added.
Most people are asking for police protection to go back to their villages. Six hundred pickets are needed to ensure safety and security of the people as opposed to the existing 42 pickets. There is a huge gap between the complaints registered and arrests made.
The team has requested the district collector to create an environment where victims can go and rebuilt their destroyed houses. “It is the responsibility of the Kokhrajhar district police to go to the camps and register FIR’s. People will not get any compensation in joint FIR’s,” he said.
“Illegal arms have to be seized to stop the militants exploiting the situation,” he added.
The team visited some nine camps across three districts.