Government breaks promise to widows of Assam militancyMarch 3rd, 2009 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS
Guwahati, March 3 (IANS) Middle-aged Khudija Khatun lost her husband, Mohammad Arab Ali, to militants’ bullets in 1998. Eleven years later, Khudija is yet to receive a single penny from the government - not even the ex-gratia amount given to families of victims of insurgency.
Separatists of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) kidnapped Ali and later gunned him down near his hometown of Jagiroad in eastern Assam’s Morigaon district.
Anamika Nath is another homemaker without a man - her husband, a primary school teacher in Bongaigaon district of western Assam, was killed by ULFA militants in the run up to the assembly elections in 2001.
Government ministers then assured Anamika of a job, but eight years down the line, she is still running from pillar to post without any success.
Like Khudija and Anamika, there are hundreds of widows of insurgency in Assam who have not got the promised ex-gratia payments or government jobs promised by the government.
“I have not received any money from the government. I have four children and without any financial support from the government, life is simply like hell,” Khudija told IANS.
It has become a ritual of sorts - hours after a violent rebel strike or explosions where there are casualties, the first thing the government does is to announce an ex-gratia (since 2008 the amount has been raised to Rs.300,000 from Rs.100,000) and at times to appease sentiments, jobs were also promised to the next-of-kin of those who died in such attacks.
“I was assured of a job after my husband died. I ran from pillar to post, but then luck betrayed me,” Anamika said with tears welling in her sunken eyes.
Anamika was lucky to get the ex-gratia amount of Rs.100,000 in 2002, a year after her husband was killed by militants.
“I had to spend half the amount I received shunting between Bongaigaon and Guwahati to get my ex-gratia amount released. I had to make numerous visits to Guwahati and ultimately I was left with just about Rs.50,000,” she said.
Three decades since insurgency took roots in Assam, the state government still does not have a mechanism or a special cell for the survivors of insurgency to get their dues or their grievances heard.
“It is high time the Assam government set up a special grievance cell for the widows of insurgency. It is a shame to find the government so insensitive despite hundreds of widows of insurgency struggling for survival,” said Wasbir Hussain, director of the Centre for Development and Peace Studies, a Guwahati-based think-tank.
Hussain has written an award-winning book titled “Homemakers without the Men”, a real life story of widows of insurgency in Assam.
There could be an estimated 5,000 widows of insurgency in Assam.
But amid the gloom, there is a ray of hope for the child victims of insurgency through Project Aashwas, an initiative by the Assam Police supported by Unicef and the National Foundation for Communal Harmony.
“So far we have provided financial incentives to 752 children by paying a monthly stipend of Rs.750 towards their education,” said Debojit Hazarika, coordinator of Project Aashwas.
Apart from financial incentives, the project counsels children and their mothers.
“The trauma and stress of mothers and children is something that cannot be quantified. We do frequent counselling so that they feel they have someone to fall back upon, something like social security,” said Jayanta Das, a well known psychiatrist and counsellor for the project.
(Syed Zarir Hussain can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)