Terror ravaged in Assam to get counselling balm (Feature)

December 10th, 2008 - 11:07 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Dec 10 (IANS) At 14, Kaustav Talukdar, a Class 9 student of a school in Guwahati, simply does not know how he will lead his life after his parents were killed in a bomb blast at Ganeshguri, a busy market place in the heart of the city, on Oct 30.His parents - mother Pranita and father Sunanda - were shopping at Ganeshguri in the afternoon when the blast occurred. Both were Indian Oil Corporation officials and in their 40s.

So is the case with Sunita Sarma, 28, who lost her husband Sagar, 32, a carpenter, and their four-year-old daughter Moromi in the Ganeshguri blast. Around 95 people were killed and over 300 injured when 12 coordinated blasts rocked Guwahati and the western districts of Barpeta, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon in Assam state Oct 30 afternoon.

Now help is at hand for distraught relatives of bomb blast victims to overcome the trauma and agony of the sudden demise of loved ones. A group of trained young volunteers is all set to provide psychological succour to families of such people in militancy-plagued Assam.

An initiative of Peace Centre, a social service wing of the Guwahati Gana Seva Society working for underprivileged people of Assam, 10 volunteers will begin providing psychological support to the “terrorised” families to overcome the trauma from Jan 1, 2009.

Peace Centre, established in 2002 in Guwahati, mainly focuses on fostering peace and harmony in the entire northeast region of India.

At the counselling wing of Peace Centre, the 10 volunteers have been put through a special 20-day training.

Sister Christine, director of the counselling wing, told IANS: “The 10 volunteers have been trained in psychological counselling - focused on psychological first aid, emotional stabilisation and post traumatic disorder.”

The counsellors are volunteers and get no remuneration.

The programme will begin in Guwahati where blasts occurred in three places - Ganeshguri, Panbazar and CJM court area.

Counselling sessions will be conducted among traders of the Ganeshguri market who witnessed the blast from close quarters. The volunteers will also go to schools to counsel students.

“After Guwahati, the volunteers plan to visit different places in Assam to identify and help terrorized residents. Psychological counselling is very important to ensure that the people do not react negatively or do things that are impediments to the natural process of growth of society,” said Sister Christine.

Sangeeta Goswami, a school teacher and one of the 10 volunteers, told IANS: “People of Assam have long witnessed death and injuries to their near and dear ones in bomb blasts. Most of them have no one to address their pain. Thus, I am happy I would be of some help to the agonised people.”

Guwahati-based senior psychiatrist Jayanta Das, appreciating the initiative of Peace Centre, said: “It will help the relatives of victims of bomb blasts to discuss about their state of mind. Moreover, volunteers will provide professional counselling to the terror-affected people of Assam.”

There are no official estimates of the number of families that have lost their members in either insurgency or ethnic riots in Assam.

Assam has long been a cauldron of violence triggered by insurgency and ethnic clashes, since the state’s first rebel group, the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was formed in 1979.

“An estimated 25,000 people have been killed and hundreds more maimed for life since 1979,” said a senior police official of Assam.

According to figures available with the Assam police, as many as 423 explosions had occurred in the state between 2002 and January 2008.

A total of 928 civilians have been killed in these explosions, mostly triggered by ULFA, added the official.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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