ASIA/INDIA - Tragedy of thousands displaced by ethnic disputes in India’s north east states a mosaic of tribal peoples: local Church committed to mediation

Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Diphur (Fides Service) - “Many people are living in precarious conditions in camps and have to rely on assistance from NGOs including Catholic organisations who not only provide aid but also work actively to promote peace”. In a report sent to Fides this is the dramatic picture described by the diocese of Diphu, in Assam sate north east India the scene of ethnic clashes mainly among Kuki and Karbi peoples.
“Widespread violence causes fear, insecurity and tension”, Father Thomas Mangattuthazhe diocesan vicar told Fides. “Many villages are deserted, the people have fled after violence against women and attacks on homes in ethnic clashes between Kuki and Karbi ethnic groups. The local Church is trying to promote dialogue but peace is still a long way off”.
A person who is most committed mediation to promote dialogue and reconciliation is Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, Archbishop of Guwahati commercial capital of Assam, who has exercised his particular charisma as peace-maker to settle ethnic disputes among Dimasa and Hmar; Bodo and Adivasi; Kuki and Paite. In Guwahati the Archbishop opened a Peace Centre for the study of reconciliation and non-violence in theory and practice.
North east India is comprises seven states with a total population of 44 million belonging to 200 different ethnic groups. Very often violence is the result of a demand for more autonomy by a certain group. The situation is unstable with disorder for a variety of reasons: rebel movements making claims on the central government; disputes among different ethnic groups living in the hills, in isolated areas or surrounded by jungle. The arrival of army troops sent by the central government to stop the disorder provoked only more violence and thousands of families had to flee their homes.
Tribal peoples in north east India live in isolated areas difficult to reach often without schools or health-care service. They are mainly subsistence farmers who grow rice and fruit. The people in this area are prone to cerebral malaria TB, scabies and typhoid.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/2/2004 lines 47 word 489)