By- Anup Sharma
When armed conflict or any kinds of violence brakes out, it affects the society as a whole. However, women and children are the worst victims of any such incidents.
In the seven major ethnic violence that engulfed various ethnic communities in Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao (formerly known as North Cachar Hills) districts in last ten years, women and children suffered a lot.
First innumerable women of both the districts fell victim to atrocities perpetrated either by the cadres of militant organizations or by the security forces. While some of the cases of rape and molestation are reported most of the cases had never been reported, said Marry Rongpipi, a peace builder working in Karbi Anglong district.
‘When violence engulfed a particular village, men and women had to escape their villages and took shelter in relief camps set up by the district administration. We have met women who have given birth to their child in jungles while escaping. Some lucky women, who arrived the relief camps before child birth too faced untold miseries in relief camps. There had not been proper medical care in the relief camps and they had to deliver child in most adverse conditions. The suffering does not end there. There were no baby foods in the camps and proper medical camps,’ – she added.
‘The suffering seems even more for the children. The displacement which took place after the violence robed the children of their childhood. The displacement deprived most of the children of vaccination against certain deadly diseases. As per the government vaccination schemes, the health workers normally go from house to house to administer the vaccines. However, the health workers could not administer some doses of these vaccines due to large scale displacement in the villages’, she said while adding that the number of school dropouts have also increased in the two districts after the violence.
‘Education has been worst affected due to the series of violence in last several years. Most of the schools in the district were turned into relief camps during the violence and those remained relief camps for years—until the victims are rehabilitated in other places’, said Fr. Tom Mangattuthazhe, principal of the Little Flower School in Manja.
Our school also became a relief camp after the 2005 clash. The Little Flower School remained relief camp from October 2005 till January 2006. There were about 500 pupils in our school prior to violence. But when the school opened in 2006 we could register below hundred pupils. Our teachers go from village to village asking the parents to send their children to school and after hard work of the teachers, we could get only 190 children in 2008, – said Fr. Tom while adding that most of the parents do not like to send their children to schools and instead use them for supplementing the family in various ways—even keeping the minor children as domestic help in wealthy families in town areas.
‘We had launched a door to door campaign all these years after 2005 clashes and now as a result of the campaign we are fortunate to have 570 children at present’, he said.
‘Although the government have rehabilitated the victims in model villages—most of the victims belonging to the minority communities like the Kukis have absorbed in the houses of their relatives and it is difficult to find them out and appeal them to resume studies’, said Marry.
Marry also brought home the point that many of the children who had dropped out from the school have resumed studies but they could not do well in their studies as there is no trauma counseling after the violence. ‘They have been living with memories of the clashes and violence and lack of proper trauma counseling have led to poor results in the schools’, she added.
(The article is written as part of a media fellowship by National Foundation for India (NFI), New Delhi)