Ethnic riot refugees return to villages

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Shillong, Feb 25 (PTI) Refugees displaced in the lastmonth''s ethnic riots along the Assam and Meghalaya border havestarted returning to their villages in batches, a day after apeace meet that involved people from the affected communities.

"There are some 4,500 refugees in relief camps inAssam''s Goalpara district, and around 1500 in Meghalaya''s EastGaro Hills district. Scores of people are returning to theirvillages in batches," East Garo Hills deputy commissionerPravin Bakshi told PTI today.

The district administration of East Garo Hillsyesterday had organised a massive peace meeting in Resubelparawhere hundreds of people from both Garo and Rabha communitiesparticipated besides administration officials of Assam.

Meghalaya Community and Rural Development Minister F WMomin urged the refugees to return to the villages citing thatpeace had returned.

Assuring assistance to the displaced who werereluctant to return, Momin made an appeal to them to get ridof their fears and return back to claim the relief andcompensation package that was offered by the administration.

He also urged people not to listen to rumours and toplay a constructive role in peace and development.

The Deputy Commissioner East Garo Hills implored thepeople not to pay heed to the circulation of rumours andobserved that random and stray incidents should be ignored andnot given importance as there was peace, by and large.

Many NGOs volunteers were present in the meeting andassured to take up relief and rehabilitation programmes forthe affected families.

Twelve people were killed, thousands of houses torchedand some 50,000 displaced in the riots in Meghalaya''s EastGaro Hills and neighbouring Assam''s Goalpara district betweenJanuary 1 and 9.

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