Even as violence erupted in the border areas of Dhubri and Kokrajhar on August 21 and 22, indigenous Muslims helped hundreds of Bodos flee to safety while marauding mobs were setting their villages afire.
"The lives of hundreds of Bodos from villages such as Alibhoi, Chakshila and Thinthila were saved only because of the local Muslims," says 20-year-old Jayshree Mushahary, currently being sheltered in a relief camp. "For quite a while, local Muslims kept asking us to be careful as many new faces could be seen in our area."
"Even local Muslims are scared of the new settlers.
They feel threatened and intimidated. Some suffered injuries trying to protect us," she says even as her friend, Anjana Basumatary, nods in agreement.
"We have grown up with the local Muslims. They would come to our houses, have meals, eat 'tamul' (betel nut) with us. They speak Assamese, Bodo and even Rajbonsghi. We do not understand the language of the new settlers, and they do not understand us," says Anjana, recalling the terrible day when her village near Diabari was attacked.
"Women and children left the village first, and the men stayed back to watch their houses being set on fire by mobs. Later, they decided to accompany us to the relief camps too," she says.
Jayashree, who has a family of five, admits that food will be a problem. "The farming season has been stalled, and our granaries have been burnt. There are no utensils. I wonder how we can bring our lives back on the track now."
Before the violence, her uncle had six cows and two bulls – making him a rich man by local standards. Today, he has nothing.
Jayashree desperately wants to return to her village. "I want to get on with my studies, procure a degree and possibly take up a job. But I also know that going back could be dangerous."
As of now, she has to put her plans on hold. A girl interrupted.