Aid Reaches Violence-stricken Region in India
by Catholic News Service
GUWAHATI, India (CNS) — Relief began reaching violence-stricken areas of Assam state after a visiting by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Singh’s visit to the northeast Indian state included the announcement of $54 million for relief and rehabilitation in the area affected by ethnic violence that left 60 dead and 400,000 people homeless in mid-July, the Asian church news agency UCA News reported.
Catholic relief organizations were among the agencies seeking to send aid to the region for more than a week in the wake of the bloody clashes between Muslim migrants from West Bengal and Bangladesh and ethnic Bodo people.
Violence erupted July 20 after four Bodo youths were killed by Muslims. The murders followed the killing of two Muslim youths earlier in July.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of India in a July 26 statement said it was “deeply pained” by the “mindless violence and humanitarian crisis” that engulfed several districts in the northeastern Indian state.
Singh approved payments of $3,600 to the families of each of the 60 people killed during violence along with $900 for each person injured.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram followed Singh’s visit July 30.
The displaced people have settled in 235 relief camps after a cycle of violence saw homes torched in three autonomous districts overseen by Bodo people.
As the aid workers reached the worst affected areas, they were greeted by scenes of devastation, with rice paddy fields still burning 10 days after the violence erupted.
“Nothing is untouched by fire,” said Sister Jacoba, who ministers in the area. “We have to attend to so many people and I am looking out for more volunteers.”
Authorities have entrusted the Missionaries of Charity with delivering aid in Dhubri in conjunction with Augustinian nuns.
Officials at the Bongaigaon Diocese, which includes the burned-out region, also arranged for doctors and nurses to treat the injured.
Bishop Thomas Pulloppillil of Bongaigaon led a team to relief camps in Chirang July 28 to assess the situation.