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Fear keeps victims in relief camps

Karbi Anglong groups for peace

Guwahati, Jan. 15: The Karbi Anglong administration in Assam has set a January 20 deadline to send back all the 3,770 people displaced in the recent violence in the district to their villages. But many are reluctant to return, citing insecurity.

Fixed security pickets, comprising CRPF and Assam police battalion, have been posted in at least 16 villages under Borpothar, Dhillai, Khatkhati and Chokihola police stations to assure both Rengma Naga and Karbi villagers about their post-repatriation safety.

The sub-divisional officer of Bokajan, Bipul Saikia, told The Telegraph from Diphu, about 220km from here, that over 600 people had returned to their villages and they were hoping to send back all sheltering in relief camps by January 20.

Many organisations in the district, however, are demanding that the state government should take the initiative to convince the two militant groups, Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) and the Naga Rengma Hills Protection Force (NRHPF), to come to a peace agreement before sending the villagers back

“It is difficult for the security forces to provide security in the hilly and forested areas. Hence we demand that the state government must bring both the groups to the talks table and convince them to sign a peace agreement to stop further violence in the district,” said Benting Teron, chairman of Karbi Anglong Peace Forum. This is an umbrella organisation of 30 civil society groups in the district.

The forum, which is campaigning for an end to the frequent ethnic clashes and lasting peace in the district, met representatives of Naga Hoho, a civil society group in Nagaland, at Diphu yesterday and also appealed to both KPLT and NRHPF for peace.

“The victims of violence among Rengma Nagas and Karbis want to return to their villages but fear psychosis is stopping them. Peace agreement with the two groups is a must if the government really wants to end the prevailing fear psychosis and further violence,” Teron said.

Altogether 3,770 people — Naga Rengmas and Karbis — had fled their homes after suspected KPLT militants gunned down four Rengma Nagas at Khowanigaon village, about 100km from the district headquarters of Diphu, under Bokajan police station in Karbi Anglong district of Assam on December 27, before they clashed with NRHPF militants. Two KPLT cadres were killed in the clash.

The tension escalated after nine bodies of persons from Karbi Anglong were found in Dimapur district of Nagaland and another Karbi youth was killed at Karbigaon under Khatkhati police station in Karbi Anglong on January 4.

Karbi Anglong superintendent of police Mugdha Jyoti Mahanta today said 10 companies of CRPF and nine platoons of Assam police battalion (about 80 personnel in each) have been deployed in the district, especially the 16 affected villages, to instil a sense of security among the displaced. Altogether 27 militants — 21 from KPLT and six from NRHPF — have been arrested so far in connection with the December 27 and January 4 attacks.

On compensation, the Bokajan SDO said those whose houses were burnt would get three bundles of tin sheets and Rs 20,000 in cash. Cash would also be given to those whose houses were partially damaged in the attacks. “The administration will provide clothes worth Rs 1,300 and utensils worth Rs 1,400 to each victimised family. We will also provide free ration for 15 days,” Saikia added.

The inmates of relief camps, however, said the compensation was not sufficient, as they had lost several bighas of crops, including paddy, oranges and chillies, during the violence.