13, Jul 2020 | CJP Team
As if the nationwide lockdown in wake of the outbreak of the Coronavirus wasn’t placing enough strain on the lives and livelihoods of people hailing from impoverished backgrounds in Assam, cyclone Amphan, floods and heavy rains have continued to wreak havoc in the region. However, undeterred by any of this, CJP has surged forth in its relief efforts and has ensured that our service to our fellow Indians in Assam continues without a hitch.
CJP’s Assam state team that had been originally working to secure the release of eligible inmates of detention camps on conditional bail, discovered that the families of many of these inmates were living in abject poverty, on the brink of starvation. That’s when we started providing impoverished families food grains, vegetables, oil and other essential supplies.
Now that the final NRC has been published, and 19,06,657 people have been excluded from the final list, CJP’s campaign has become even more focused. Our objective now, is to help these excluded people defend their citizenship before Foreigners’ Tribunals. We are also helping secure the release of detention camp inmates as per the Supreme Court order on their conditional release. For this we have already started conducting a series of workshops to train paralegals to assist people at FTs. We will also be publishing a multi-media training manual containing simplified aspects of legal procedure, evidentiary rules, and judicial precedents that will ensure the appeals filed against the NRC exclusions in the FTs are comprehensive and sound, both in fact and in law. This will assist our paralegals, lawyers and the wider community in Assam to negotiate this tortuous process. For this we need your continued support. Please donate now to help us help Assam.
But this was just the beginning. As cyclone Amphan wreaked havoc in Eastern India between May 16 and 21, Assam witnessed torrential rain that left many areas inundated under several feet of water. Rivers overflowed and flooding caused widespread damage to lives, livelihoods and property of people who had very limited resources to begin with. It takes a long time for flood water to subside in the low-lying riverine region, as a result of which losses kept mounting even weeks after the heavy showers first hit.
Our community volunteers and volunteer motivators reported many heartbreaking stories of loss. “People have suffered a lot due to continuous rain and flood water in the village of Bolbola Khagarabari under Agia police station, in Goalpara district. People not only lost their homes, but also livestock such as hens, buffalos, cows, goats, ducks, etc. that drowned in the floods,” reported Zesmin Sultana. “Apart from this, vegetable and paddy crops have also been destroyed in the flood. Due to flood water, people have left their houses and have been forced to live out in the open, by the roadside for three to four days. There has been continuous flooding since May 24,” she added.
On May 30, Rashminara Begum reported, “People have suffered huge losses due to continuous rain and flood water in the village of Lakhipur Kusha Pakhri under Lakhipur police station, of Goalpara district. Due to inundation, the standing paddy crop has been destroyed.”
Here are a few images of the inundation in Goalpara:
But undeterred by this CJP not only continued to work to get people out of detention camps, but also kept in touch with families of newly released detainees to assess their rehabilitation needs and also to provide food and essential supplies whenever required.
On June 29, four people; Banesha Khatun, Banamali Darm Rajendra Das and Binod Das were released from the Tezpur detention camp due to CJP’s efforts.
As scarcity and starvation had cast a pall of gloom over the holy month of Ramzan, CJP decided to at least ensure that no one was hungry or miserable on Eid. “In an attempt to bring about some relief and possibly even joy during Eid, the CJP Team distributed 5 kgs rice, 500 gm pulses, 500 ml mustard oil, 1 kg potatoes, 1 kg onions, 250 gms garlic, a bar of soap and 100 ml of coconut oil each to 200 families in Morigaon district. This includes families of the four people who were recently released from detention camps. We also gave new clothes to all members of each family,” reported Faruk Ahmed who presided over the program.
CJP in association with Bijni Prayas-Oikyatan also distributed over 900 food packets in 53 villages on the occasion of Eid. For two days, the CJP vehicle covered a distance of over 250 kilometers!
On June 5, we delivered food to the family of 67-year-old Samsul Ali. The ailing, frail old man had been released on February 28 along with his brother Abdul Rashid from the Goalpara detention camp. While earlier, he would often repeat his own name over and over out of trauma, even after being released, this time when we met him, he appeared to be in better health. Nanda Ghose, Volunteer Motivator for Lower Assam reported, “We are glad to see that Samsul Ali is gradually becoming stronger mentally. He just smiled today and said, ‘Allah will bless you all for the work you are doing.’” Ghosh visited the detainee’s home with CJP Assam state team adviser Zamser Ali and other team members.
The CJP team also visited a few other detainees and Ghosh reported, “We went to the house of Bongshi Rajbongshi in Barpatgar village under Panbari police station in Chirang District to discuss and observe his newly made grocery shop. Bongshi Rajbongshi expressed gratitude to CJP for everything.”
“After that we went to Kishwar Barman’s house in Thaisubari village that comes under the jurisdiction of the Panbari police station in Chirang district. This is a very remote and heavily forested region near the Indo-Bhutan border. We inquired about Barman’s physical and mental health and also tried to gauge his economic challenges. Barman appeared to feel less anxious after counselling from CJP,” said Ghosh.
On June 7, Chirang District Volunteer Motivator Abul Kalam Azad reported, “A few days ago when we visited the family of Hari Mohan Barman in Dhupguri village under Sidli Police Station. He was released on May 13 and is in ill health. His wife was unable to work at their tea shop because of the lockdown. Therefore today, we delivered 10 kgs rice, 2 kgs potato, 1 litre mustard oil, 1 kg pulses, 1 packet salt, 200 gm turmeric to them.”
On June 19, Assam State team advisor Zamser Ali, Lower Assam Motivator Volunteer Nanda Ghosh, VM Abul Kalam Azad and prominent teacher Ruhul Amin Mandal visited to the house of Harimohan Barman of Dhupguri village under Sidli police station of Chirang district, Purnima Biswas of Juilga village and Lalit Thakur of Garubhasha village. “They were all released from detention camp recently. They are naturally mentally and physically weak due to the disaster that befell them, which is why it is important to go meet them to gauge the mental, physical and financial condition of the victims. We also encourage them through motivational conversations and try to boost their morale. They were also informed about their rehabilitation and they were very happy to hear that,” reported Chirang DVM Abul Kalam Azad.
On June 27, Majid ul Islam, DVM Barpeta reported further suffering on account of a fresh bout of heavy rainfall. “The heavy rainfall was bad enough. Now the release of water from Bhutan’s Kurishu River Dam has also caused the Beki river to overflow. As a result, floodwaters inundated many parts of Assam’s Barpeta district overnight.” He added, “Yesterday, I visited the affected families of Shutirpathar, Kharballi and Shawnpur in Barpeta district. Victims have taken refuge on government platforms or elevated places. I went to four such platforms to take stock of the situation. About 40 families have taken shelter on one platform. Among them are the old and the ailing as well as small children. These people have no food to eat, no clean drinking water and no toilets.”
Here are some of the heart-rending images captured by our team:
But floods also threaten the most precious commodity in Assam… identity documents. On June 29, Volunteer Motivator Joinal Abdin reported, “Due to flood in Kirakara, Dhalpur village under Chipajhar police station of Darang district, the villagers contacted me and left in my care the NRC document file of 14 families.” He added, “Thousands of bighas of farmers’ fields were submerged in the flood. Lockdown on the one hand and floods on the other, the people are now worried about how to feed their families.”
During this period, the CJP Team did not stop its efforts to get eligible people released from detention camps and while Rahman Ali was released from Goalpara detention camp on June 2 and reunited with his daughters, Harbala Khatun walked free on June 23 from the Kokrajhar detention camp, becoming the 32 person to be released due to CJP’s efforts.