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Oasis of peace in turmoil land

india Updated: Jul 29, 2012 23:41 IST
Rahul Karmakar

Untouched by the bloodshed, fire and fear, Kokrajhar's Parbatjhora is an oasis of peace. With its lazy mornings, busy days, and calm sunsets, it seems a different world, unsullied by the Bodo-Muslim violence that has ripped life apart in the rest of Kokrajhar and other districts.

Parbatjhora, lying 287 km west of Guwahati, is the state's ethnic and religious melting pot. Its 44,000 people - inhabitants of 114 villages - comprise Bengali Hindus, Nepalis, Rajvansis, Adivasis, Garos and Rabha tribals. Keeping peace among this checkered population is a longstanding tradition, an unwritten pact renewed as late as 1994 after yet another Bodo-Muslim clash.

To survive, it was the smart thing to do.

Pressured as they are by migration from Bangladesh, most villages in Assam's westernmost borders are polarised on tribal and religious lines. Tribal ideologues still talk of the 1900s, when the advent of the non-tribal population made their forefathers move from Dhubri. Parbatjhora decided to fight back and put a stop to both migration and the resulting violence.

"We stick together and refuse to be swayed by trouble-mongers," said vegetable vendor Shahinur Islam of Ambari village.

But resisting rumours is harder. Even this time, reports of an invasion by armed men made nearly 700 people from his village and adjoining Khutabagra flee to nearby Alamganj. But they soon returned.

"We, too, are fallible," admitted Niranjan Brahma, a Bodo priest, "But we recover faster than others, possibly because of the realisation that we need each other to survive."

Brahma and Islam are the key members of a peace panel comprising representatives of all villages.

"We succeeded because the people have a positive attitude," said HN Roy, officer in charge of Kazigaon police station, who helped with the peace-keeping.

"Most people here are poor, but they stand out as an example of how resisting political interference helps," said Rabiram Narzary, ex-president of the All Bodo Students' Union.