Refugee Camps in Violence-stricken Region of India

NEW DELHI (CNS) — Medical officials in Assam denied media reports that children have become sick in relief camps housing hundreds of thousands of people displaced by ethnic violence in Assam state.

“Everything is under control. We are monitoring the situation. I don’t know where these reports are coming from,” said Ananta Mohan Raba, director of health services in Kokrajhar district, one of the affected areas.

The Asian church news agency UCA News reported that several media said Aug. 5 that at least 6,000 children in the northeastern state’s violence-torn Baska, Dhubri, Chirang and Kokrajhar districts have fallen ill because of insufficient food and a lack drinking water and medicine.

There are no epidemics in the camps and “we are providing everything the people need in sufficient quantities,” Raba said Aug. 6.

Father Thomas D’Silva, spokesman for the Bongaigaon Diocese, also denied the reports.

“Our medical teams are in the camps and have not reported any such thing,” he said.

Numerous camps have been established since July 20 when fighting broke out after four Bodo youth were killed by Muslims. Armed bands from both communities torched settlements and plundered homes, leading to the massive displacement of people. The murder of the Bodo youths followed the killing of two Muslim youths earlier in July.

Reaching out to some of the displaced people, Bishop Thomas Pulloppillil of Bongaigaon led a team of health workers and church leaders into camps located in his diocese Aug. 3-4. Missionaries of Charity sisters were included on the medical teams.

As the good-will mission was in progress, violence flared Aug. 4-5. Local officials declared a curfew in Bijni and Chirang as four people were killed in clashes, bringing the death toll to 62 since the violence first erupted.

A blast was reported in Baska district in which three people were injured.

The renewed violence came after relative calm was restored in the strife-torn districts.

The fighting led officials of the Bongaigaon Diocese to ask a local school to postpone a peace rally planned for Aug. 6, Father D’Silva told Catholic News Service.

Meanwhile, retired Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati also visited several camps in Kokrajhar district.

Contributing to this report was Anto Akkara in Bangalore.

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