‘We became sitting ducks because we listened to Bodo leaders’
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In the past two days, as many as 21 relief camps have opened in this small town in Kokrajhar bordering Dhubri district — the two worst-affected districts in the recent violence. With more and more people trooping in every hour, about 50,000 are estimated to be taking shelter in these camps — local volunteers peg the figure at over 1 lakh. They are all victims of the ethnic clashes that remained hidden from public gaze for some time, confined to the interiors of Kokrajhar and Dhubri.
With security forces carrying out flag marches in different parts of the districts in the last few days, the victims gathered the courage to leave their hideouts in the forests, relatives' houses and highways, collected whatever belongings they could find, and moved to the safety of relief camps. They used any mode of transport available — horse carriages, bullock carts, trucks, bicycles, auto-rickshaws.
Eyewitness accounts at the Hatidhura camp indicated a well-planned strategy behind the attacks. They said that during the initial days of the flare-up, the Bodos living in areas with mixed population went to the Muslims and advised them to shift to some other areas, in big groups.
"We became sitting ducks because we listened to the Bodo leaders and shifted to an area near our village to stay together. This enabled the attackers to set fire to our unguarded houses. At the same time, they encircled the area where we had all shifted," said Azizul Haque, one of the many refugees at a relief camp.
"They came in large numbers wearing outfits similar to the uniforms of the security forces — some in green combat dress, others in black uniforms like commando units," recalled Haque, who was shot in the stomach. "I survived, but many others were killed," he added.
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