2014-2016: Christmas Spells Fear For Adivasis Hit By Terror And Govt Neglect
GUWAHATI: William Mormo, 60 plus, is not in a happy mood even though it is Christmas. He has been in this frame of mind for the last couple of years where he is filled with a sense of foreboding when the festival that always brought him cheer, approaches.
On December 23, 2014, more than 70 innocent Adivasis were gunned down by the militants of the banned outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit faction).
Advisasis at the time retaliated with ethnic clashes breaking out as Bodo villages were targeted as well. Houses were burnt as the two communities attacked each other. Hundreds fled into the jungles living in what became refugee camps for weeks and months before going back to their homes. They still live in deep fear of violence.
Even after two years, these ill-fated people are pleading for justice and remain insecure and terrified.
“We don’t celebrate Christmas as we did before. Our relatives and neighbours are weeping in memory of their near and dear ones who were killed for no reason. On top of that, the government also doesn’t give any importance to us. We have been neglected for centuries,” said Mormo, a farmer at Maitalubasti village in Sonitpur district, on the Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh border.
In the Maitalubasti and Phulbari villages itself at least 32 people were killed which included 12 children.
Minutes after the attacks at Maitalubasti, the militants shot dead three persons at Pakhriguri village in Kokrajhar district in western Assam, bordering West Bengal.
Recalling the dark day, Joseph, a youth who sustained injuries said that the militants armed with assault rifles and other sophisticated weapons entered the village on foot and targeted the people. “Some of them also forcefully entered the thatched-roofed houses to kill women and children. It was that barbaric,” said Joseph, who ran to the jungles nearby to save his life.
Raphael Kujur, former president of All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) said that the approach of the government is of apathy and neglect. “Though everyone promised us security and told us that no such incident will occur again, but we remain vulnerable. We don’t even have a proper communication system, the police barely patrols this area, and actually nothing has changed over the last couple of years,” Kujur said.
The villagers received a few thousand rupees and tin sheets to re-build their houses from the government after the massacre that has left them traumatsed.“These things are useless if the government cannot guarantee us security and safety. The people responsible have not even been arrested, so there is no question of justice either,” Joseph said.
The poor Adivasis living in the jungles literally are sitting ducks for militant attacks. This has not been the first such incident, with the state government doing little to provide protection and bring justice to these poor tribals who are living even at the best of times, in abject poverty.