Aug. 9: Dispur today announced reopening of schools and colleges in Assam's riot-hit districts from August 16 amid apprehension that the displaced may not be completely rehabilitated by then.
Education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters the institutions would have to reopen immediately to prevent loss of academic year in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District and Dhubri.
He said the deputy commissioners of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Dhubri districts had been asked to ensure that the institutions resume regular classes soon after Independence Day. "Rehabilitation is on and all the people displaced in the riots are expected to return to their homes with security and proper compensation by August 15. If the rehabilitation is not completed within the stipulated deadline and inmates remain in schools till August 16, classes will then be held at the nearby clubs and community halls," Sarma said. On July 30, the government had extended the summer vacations in the BTAD and Dhubri by a week as most schools and colleges, scheduled to reopen on August 1 after a monthlong summer vacation, had been converted into relief camps. The vacations were again extended by a week on August 7.
Sources said nearly 200 of the 261 relief camps in the riot-hit districts are in schools (lower primary, middle English and high schools) and colleges. About four lakh people, about a lakh of whom are school students, have been lodged in these camps since last month. Though Sarma sounded positive about reopening of the educational institutions on August 16, teachers and officials of his department were apprehensive.
Sources in the office of the inspector of schools in Dhubri district said it would be very difficult to hold classes in clubs and community halls and normal classes could start only when the schools and colleges were vacated.
A schoolteacher in Kokrajhar said unless normalcy was completely restored, it would be difficult to send the camp inmates back. "The clubs and community halls will have to be suitably located if the government wants to resume classes," he added.
The Assam College Teachers' Association said the educational institutions should remain closed till the situation was completely normal and students had returned to their homes from the relief camps.
Sarma blasts Advani
Sarma also alleged that BJP leader L.K. Advani's statement yesterday in Parliament would create hurdles in the way of peace returning to lower Assam. "The people of both communities have taken the initiative to create trust between each other and such statements by prominent politicians will lead to complications," Sarma said today.
Advani had said the violence in Assam should not be seen as a communal incident but the issue is basically between Indians and infiltrators from across the border.
"The problem between Bodos and Muslims would be soon resolved through 'dialogue and promotion of mutual trust. Politicians should keep out of it," Sarma said.