| Villagers of Bangaldoba hold a public meeting. Telegraph picture |
Bangaldoba, Part I (Kokrajhar), Nov. 13: Rumour-mongering has caused more tension after the recent riots in lower Assam but villagers here have joined hands against those spreading false information.
Those spreading rumours will be fined Rs 101 or end up behind bars in this village, which faced the brunt of violence as goons attacked all 80 households twice in July, setting fire to most of them and forcing residents to hide in the jungles.
After the villagers started returning to their homes last month, the buzz of further attacks created panic among them. However, when they found out that some were spreading wrong information, they decided to act tough.
“If the person who is found guilty of creating trouble in the village fails to comply with our diktat, we will catch them and hand them over to police,” Sarat Chandra Brahma, the gaon burah (village headman) told The Telegraph.
“We have asked all the villagers to complain to me in case they find anyone either from here or outside spreading rumours of attacks. We will summon him in a public meeting and if the charges are proved, we will impose a fine of Rs 101 according to our customary law. We will also insult him in front of everyone. Earlier, we used to charge Rs 5 as token fine for those involved in antisocial activities like eve-teasing and creating problem after drinking. But now we have increased the amount to Rs 101 and included rumour-mongering in its purview,” Brahma said.
On the evening of July 23, goons had attacked the village, situated around 17km from Kokrajhar, and around 320 villagers had to flee to the nearby jungles. The criminals returned the next day and set the houses on fire, including three belonging to the gaon burah.
Rina Brahma, wife of tractor driver Jiten, had to flee with her three-year-old daughter Niharika, after three of their houses were set ablaze.
“It was scary as they (the hoodlums) came rushing with dao and lathi. We had to spend the night in the jungle without food and water. My daughter started crying and I had to suppress her wails, as the goons could have heard her and attacked us. Later, we took shelter in Naigaon school and came back home only recently. We are still scared as we continue to hear the sound of bullets at night and people talk about more attacks,” Rina said, while taking part in a meeting organised by Northeast Research and Social Work Networking, a local NGO.
Many local residents are taking shelter under tarpaulins provided by the administration but they are struggling to get their life back on track, as they could not cultivate paddy this season and their household goods were damaged.
“The villagers have lost almost everything and are still living in fear. Hence, we are trying to provide them support to get their lives back to normal. We will try to help them to begin cultivation and get them busy in work in order to reduce the tension,” executive director of the NGO, Raju Kumar Narzary, said.
A police officer of Kokrajhar police station said rumour-mongering was a concern and they were trying to keep such activities in check.