| Villagers of Barsi. Picture by author |
Safety and security are the prime concerns of residents of Takimari and Barsi villages in Dhubri district and they have conveyed it to politicians who come calling for support in the Dhubri Lok Sabha poll.
Forced to leave the village during the Bodo-Muslim riots in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) in July and August 2012, which claimed 103 lives and displaced 4.85 lakh people of both the communities, most of the 66 families of the two villages now prefer to live at Choto Malgaon forest village in Kokrajhar out of fear. The land, one bigha per family, was donated by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
The two villages, under 27-Bilasipara Assembly seat, have over 100 voters each.
Khagen Basumatary, village headman of Barsi (Part II), said the 2012 riots changed their lives forever. “Many villagers were afraid to stay back. Most of the families shifted to Kokrajhar. Some villagers even sold their lands.”
Echoing him, another villager, Dilip Kumar Basumatary, who like many others lives in Malgaon but goes to Barsi, a half-an-hour drive, to work in his fields, said, “It is becoming difficult to protect crops from animals domesticated by the new settlers on the fringe areas. The animals feed on crops on our land in Barsi but we cannot say anything. Some villagers have decided to leave the village because of destruction of crops. There is no security of our lives and properties.” His three college-going sons have left their studies to work outside the state.
Others echo his fears. “We are becoming refugees in our own land. Those who are well off have bought land in other places and shifted, but there are many like us who cannot leave the village. Soon, all villagers will leave if no concrete measures are taken by the government,” another villager said.
“It is becoming very difficult for us to stay on our ancestral land. We are worried after what happened. So most of the people have either shifted their base or are struggling to stay as they do not want to leave behind the fertile soil,” said Baren Brahma, the headman of Takimari village, who shifted to Kokrajhar town after the riots.
Asked what they want from political parties and leaders, a villager said, “Safety and security is our top concern. It is the duty of the parties and leaders ruling the state and the country to provide security to people. We are not asking for food and shelter, but security of our lives and property. We hope the new government will do that.”