“I Forgot to get up my books along, they must have burnt them… Is there a way I can get them back?” It is not just her books, but seven-year-old Haseena Digal misses her school and friends as well.
A bloodthirsty mob descended on her village Gadaguda in Tikabali block of Kandhamal district on August 26 and torched 25 houses. The family escaped into a forest and has been living in a relief camp in Tikabali, 15 kms from Gadaguda.
A student of Class III in Gadaguda’s upper primary school, she wants to know when can she get back to school. “I love my school. I had made so many friends there, they must be missing me too. Few days ago, my father asked us to run towards the jungle. He said we would be killed. I forgot to get my books…”
“There are times when she wakes up scared and starts crying. I have to reassure her that we are safe,” her father Sanjeev Kumar Digal, a Christian, says.
Haseena is among hundreds of children displaced and scarred by riots and their life disrupted.
“I don’t have anything to do here. We have been living in this tent for many days. I don’t have any friends here. I want to go back to school,” says Bretli Pradhan. His father Balabhadra Pradhan, a Church employee, is concerned about the eight-year-old. “I don’t wish him to be someone big —a minister or a collector, but he should be more educated than me. I don’t know when we would be able to return home,” says Pradhan, who fled from Bodamundi village.
Mikhali Digal, a student of Class V in government school in Jiganagam village, is trying to make friends at the camp. “There is nothing much to do here except wander from one tent to another. We’re not even allowed to go beyond the camp gates for security reasons. I miss my village, I feel suffocated here,” the 10-year-old child complains.
Most of the parents told HT that the children were scared and suffered from anxiety. “My son often wakes up from sleep and complains that someone is coming to attack him,” says Jalandhra Digal, Mikhail’s father.
For the children camping at Tikabali government school, the healing is yet to begin and there is no one who can counsel them.