Twelve-year-old Roshanara, one of nearly 2,000 inmates of Hatachara relief camp near Bongaigaon town 210km west of Guwahati, is desperately seeking her father. Further west, at the relief camp in Kokrajhar Commerce College, Jamuna Basumatary is awaiting her 'missing' husband.
Roshanara, a migrant Muslim settler, and Basumatary, an indigenous Bodo tribal, share the pain of losing their dear ones and homes, and the growing fear and suspicion of each other's communities.
NH31, cutting through the Bodoland Territorial Council areas, links the Northeast to the rest of India. Hatred had seldom ruled this highway unlike the more notorious NH39 that links Assam and Manipur via Nagaland, until now.
Discussions in the relief camps flanking NH31 invariably veer around the 'impossibility' of coexisting with 'the others' who can be 'trusted no longer'. For the likes of Munna Ali, 32, it is more of a conviction. "One of my uncles died when 'they' attacked our village Bhabanipur in 1993. We spent more than 10 years in this (Hatachara) relief camp before starting life anew. They attacked our village this time, and we are back to square one," he says.
Soon, issues more "mundane" – two toilets for 2,500 people and grabbing a measly packet of rice provided by an allegedly insensitive local administration – take over.
The home department negated negligence. "We are providing adequate relief material for 400,000 people in 270 relief camps in Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Chirang and Dhubri districts. Doctors too have been denied leaves," an official says.
As volunteers distribute food packets, a mad rush ensues. But even the sight of food cannot make an exhausted Ali budge from his place under the canopy. "I don't think we can go back this time," he mutters.