When armed communities are at each other’s throats in the three violence-hit western districts in Assam, the unarmed and unorganised are fleeing the state — mostly to West Bengal and Meghalaya.
The fear factor has gripped Bengali Hindus — the softest target whenever violence takes over the state’s fragile peace — and Koch-Rajbonsi tribals are fleeing the Muslim-dominated Dhubri district over the last one month since the Bodo-Muslim clashes broke out on July 20.
Bengali-speaking people from the Mankachar subdivision of Dhubri are moving to the West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya less than 10km away while people from Gauripur and Bilasipara areas are covering about 20km to reach Bengal’s Cooch Behar district — mainly inhabited by the Rajbonsis.
Assam home secretary GD Tripathi said reports of non-Muslims fleeing certain areas would be looked into. “We will take steps to instil confidence in the people,” he said, adding that extra forces had been deployed to keep peace.
Officials in Dhubri confirmed that Bengali Hindus have been leaving for the two neighbouring states. In some cases, male members of families have returned from Cooch Behar and West Garo Hills, leaving women and children in the safe custody of relatives.
Mahadev Saha, 57, of Thakuranbari in Mankachar subdivision, who shifted his family to West Garo Hills, said, "Something is just not right. I'll bring my family back only if the authorities create a safe environment."
Dhananjoy Sen, 49, of Khudimari village in Gauripur subdivision admitted that he left with his family even though he did not receive any direct threat. "I am taking no chances after hearing about the possibility of violence," he said after escorting his family of six to Cooch Behar.
Home secretary Tripathi said tension prevailed in some areas of Bengali dominated Hailakandi district during the burial of three youths ejected from a running train in West Bengal last week, but the local administration prevented the situation from boiling over.
Meanwhile, a central government team visited relief camps in Dhubri on Tuesday. It will visit Bodo camps in Kokrajhar and other districts on Wednesday.