India

ACT Alert India - No. 40/2008: Communal and ethnic violence - Orissa and Assam States

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ACT members Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) and Lutheran World Service-India (LWSI) are responding with assistance to people displaced and living in fear of human rights abuses due to the latest communal and ethnic violence in the States in Orissa and Assam in India, where both organisations are present on the ground.

Orissa: Violent clashes between Hindu and Christian communities in Orissa sparked by the killing of a Hindu leader and four of his aides in late August this year, have led to 35 deaths in Kandhamal District and the displacement of thousands of people from their homes. Institutions run by Christian communities have been targeted. Families who were hiding in the forest since the violence broke out are now taking refuge in relief camps, mostly set up in school buildings, which are becoming more and more crowded. The security of aid workers seeking to serve the people in the camps is a matter of great concern. Central Reserve Police Forces have been deployed by the government to maintain the rule of law. Staff of LWSI working in neighboring Jaipur District have had to be temporarily evacuated due to the risk of the violence spreading.

An assessment team from the Inter Agency Group (IAG) of Orissa, representing 18 members including both CASA and LWSI, and together with the Sphere India representative, visited the camps recently and identified needs for assistance in the following sectors: food, sanitation, health including for mothers and addressing psychological trauma, clothing, schooling, non-food relief items, security, peace and normalcy. (IAG Situation Report on Violence, 10 October 2008)

ACT members' response: CASA and LWSI are working in coordination with other civil society organizations, led by SPHERE India and the IAG. Contact is also being maintained with fellow ACT members the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of India (UELCI) and with local churches concerned to establish peace amongst the different religious communities. CASA has already been able to extend some relief through the Council of Baptisi Churches in North East India. LWSI plans to fill gaps in unmet urgent needs of people in the relief camps and in rehabilitating the affected families through the process of peace and reconciliation. Both CASA and LWSI are considering the submission of an appeal for this emergency, and CASA also intends to request ACT Rapid Response Funding.

Assam: Since October 3rd, 200,000 people in 54 villages have been affected by violence in Udalguri and Darrang Districts. The clashes were sparked by the abduction of a person from the majority Bodo community in Mohanpur village on October 3rd, allegedly by a group of people from the religious minority Muslim community. Fierce clashes between the Bodo and Muslim communities led to many people being injured and in several areas of the two districts police resorted to firing to disperse violent mobs. The violence spread in North Assam with many people fleeing in panic. A curfew has been imposed in some areas of Udalguri and Darrang districts. In some areas "shoot-on-sight" orders have been issued and an increased number of army and Border Security Forces (BSF) personnel have been deployed. 2,505 houses were damaged, amongst which 500 houses were torched with personal belongings also lost in the fires. LWSI project staff have reported that the implementation of community projects has been disrupted as all of the muslim masons in the area engaged in constructing Community Centres, installing tube wells and other activities are too afraid to go to the construction sites. The Bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in the Himalayan States (ELCITHS) has reported from Assam that 46,168 people are taking shelter in 15 camps in Udalguri district alone. Few NGOs are present in the affected area.. While the violence in the districts has now subsided and is under control, tensions prevail between the two communities.

ACT members response: An LWSI Rapid Assessment Team is already in the affected area and has identified the gaps in meeting the urgent needs of people in the relief camps. Based on a request received from the church authorities from Udalguri and Darrang districts of Assam, the needs of displaced persons include:

- Psychosocial Care

- Dry Food,

- Drinking water facilities,

- Temporary Housing, like Tarpaulin,

- Sleeping Materials as Bed sheets, Blankets

- Medical assistance

- Health and Sanitation,

- Regular as well as warm clothing for both men, women and children

- Toiletries

- Utensils

The head of CASA's emergencies department also met with the Peace Committee earlier this week, and has also received fresh requests to extend further relief to displaced people in the relief camps.

LWSI and CASA are planning to request ACT Rapid Response Funding to provide the most urgent assistance immediately, and are also considering an ACT appeal in the near future.

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jessie Kgoroeadira, ACT Finance Officer (jkg@act-intl.org).

Thank you for your attention.

For further information please contact:

ACT Director, John Nduna (phone +41 22 791 6033 or mobile phone + 41 79 203 6055) or

ACT Program Officer, Michelle Yonetani (phone +41 22 791 6035 or mobile phone +41 79 285 2916)

ACT Web Site address: http://www.act-intl.org

ACT is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.

The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.