04-19-2021  2:05 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
  • Judiciary Committee Votes to Advance Reparations Bill HR-40

    Judiciary Committee Votes to Advance Reparations Bill HR-40

    After decades of effort reparations advocates are celebrating the House Judiciary Committee's decision to send a bill to the U.S. House for a full vote. Democrats pushed the bill through the committee but Republicans are opposing itRead More
  • prosecutor Jerry Blackwell speaks as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill discusses motions before the court Thursday, April 15, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

    What to Expect in Closings for Chauvin trial in Floyd Death

    Attorneys will make closing arguments in a last chance to sway the jury to convict or acquit the former Minneapolis cop on murder and manslaughter chargesRead More
  • The Rev. Jesse Jackson, center left, walks with supporters during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by a police officer during a traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Armed Patrol Group Tries to Keep the Peace in Minneapolis

    Hundreds of people have gathered outside the heavily guarded Brooklyn Center police station every night since Sunday, to protest the police shooting of 20-year-old father Daunte Wright. Despite the mayor's calls for law enforcement and protesters to scale back their tactics, the nights have often ended in objects hurled, tear gas and arrestsRead More
  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sits alone in St. George’s Chapel during the funeral of Prince Philip, the man who had been by her side for 73 years, at Windsor Castle, Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. Prince Philip died April 9 at the age of 99 after 73 years of marriage to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. (Jonathan Brady/Pool via AP)

    Prince Philip's Funeral Procession Televised From Windsor

    The coffin emerged from the State Entrance of Windsor Castle as those taking part in the ceremonial procession for his funeral took their places. It was loaded on a specially adapted Land Rover, designed by Philip himself, for the eight-minute journey to St. George’s Chapel. Senior military commanders lined up in front of the vehicle, with members of the royal family following behindRead More
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Lents Park Scene of Police Shooting During Protests

Amid protests across Portland against police brutality a man was shot and killed in Lents Park after reports he had a gun. Some protesters described by Mayor Ted Wheeler as a small group of "violent agitators" lit dumpster fires at the ICE and Multnomah County Sheriff's buildings and smashed windows downtown including at the Nike store building and the Oregon History Centre

Lawsuit Describes Night of Fear for Wall of Moms Protester

In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Portland, Jennifer Kristiansen also accused a federal agent of groping her as he trapped her against a wall, leading her to fear she would be raped

Oregon Senate Votes to Extend Grace Period for Past-Due Rent

Currently, tenants have until July to pay back rent, but under the proposed bill, tenants would have until Feb. 28, 2022

Black Leaders Respond to City Council Compromise on Gun Violence Prevention

Nearly million will fund community-centered approaches to uptick in shootings.


Ageless Awards Honor Older Oregonians Who Redefine Age

Four Oregonians will be honored for their inspiring contributions later in life during a free, public, virtual celebration on April...

Legislators Introduce Bill to Create a Statue of Shirley Chisholm Inside the U.S Capitol

Rep. Yvette D. Clark introduced the bill as part of a larger effort to increase the representation of Black women within the Capitol. ...

Grants Available For Portland Area Black-Led and Serving Organizations

To become a more equitable and just organization, the Providence Portland Service Area Advisory Council seeks to fund community...

WA Black Lives Matter Alliance: Weekend Legislative Wins Mark an Historic Step Toward Police Accountability

The Alliance urged quick reconciliation on the 9 bills passed this weekend and immediate signing by Gov. Jay Inslee. ...

FEMA Trailers Being Used for Oregon Wildfire Survivors

Rumors that the trailers housed unaccompanied immigrant children spurred people with guns to show up at the site ...

Police ask for help identifying Portland, Oregon, rioters

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Protesters who smashed windows, burglarized businesses and set fires during demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, caused significant damage, and authorities urged downtown businesses to review security video to help police apprehend more rioters. Police...

Riot declared in Portland protests after police kill man

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police in Portland, Oregon, said Saturday they arrested four people after declaring a riot Friday night when protesters smashed windows, burglarized businesses and set multiple fires during demonstrations that started after police fatally shot a man while responding to...


Portland Commissioners Release Statement on Recent Protests

The murder of Daunte Wright is a reminder that the call for justice for Black lives, accountability, and systemic community safety reform never stops. ...

An Open Letter To the Community From Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese

Sheriff Reese outlines Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office's strategic plan and goals to reinforce equity now and in the future. ...

Candace Avalos On The Right Track With Public Housing

Our unhoused neighbors deserve a safe and clean place to sleep ...

Providence’s Equity Pledge Should Start With Paying Workers a Living Wage

Rep. Mark Meek says Providence’s public commitment to racial equity does not match up with what’s happening inside their hospitals ...


Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

NEW YORK (AP) — Carrie Underwood brought the Academy of Country Music Awards to church. Maren Morris won two honors, including song of the year. Miranda Lambert performed three times and held on to her record as the most decorated winner in ACM history. And Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to...

Georgia's Abrams navigates voting law fight with eye on 2022

ATLANTA (AP) — President Joe Biden called Georgia's new voting law an “atrocity.” A leading Black bishop called for a national boycott of companies headquartered in the state. But when Stacey Abrams, the state’s well-known voting rights advocate, is asked about the law that has set much of...

Vigil, 'peace walk' in Chicago after police shooting of boy

CHICAGO (AP) — People gathered around Chicago on Sunday to remember a 13-year-old boy fatally shot by a police officer and to call for changes in policing and an end to gun violence. Sunday's events followed the release of body-camera footage showing Chicago police Officer...


2 documentaries up for Oscars tell stories of nonagenarians

The Oscar isn’t the only one celebrating its 93rd trip around the sun at the Academy Awards ceremony this year. The shorts category features two documentaries, “ A Concerto is a Conversation ” and “ Colette,” about fellow nonagenarians who have led extraordinary and extraordinarily...

Chicago video tests newsroom handling of graphic footage

NEW YORK (AP) — The image that many Americans have of 13-year-old Adam Toledo is frozen in time: He is standing in an alley with his hands up as the gunshot that killed him is heard. This week's release of Chicago body camera footage of the March 29...

The pandemic has upended the Oscars. Good, producers say

NEW YORK (AP) — Ninety seconds. That’s how quickly Steven Soderbergh believes the Academy Awards will convince viewers that this year’s telecast is different. The concept for the show, which Soderbergh is producing with Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, is to treat the...


AP PHOTOS: Photographers reflect on single shot of pandemic

ROME (AP) — The images show the intimacy of husbands and wives saying goodbye for the last time, or reuniting...

India's electric vehicles face practical, technical hurdles

NEW DELHI (AP) — H.S. Panno, an independent contractor living in a spacious two-story penthouse in New Delhi,...

Half of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON (AP) — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot, the government...

Cape Town fire burns university library, students evacuated

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A wildfire raging on the slopes of Cape Town's Table Mountain spread to the University of...

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The United States and China, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, agreed to...

Egypt says 11 killed in train crash north of Cairo

CAIRO (AP) — A passenger train derailed Sunday north of Cairo, killing at least 11 people, Egyptian authorities...

Sandip Roy New America Media

BONGAIGAON, Assam --  When I ask for directions to the refugee camp at the military checkpost, the man in uniform is bemused.

"Which camp?" he says. "There are so many." When I tell him it's in a high school, he shrugs. That does not narrow down the search much at all.

Amidst the sun-dappled bamboo groves and waterlogged paddy fields of southern Assam, in the districts like Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Chirang, many schools are now closed because they shelter the victims of July's violence that have left over 400,000 homeless and at least 60 dead according to official estimates. Long simmering tensions between the Bodo tribals (a diverse ethnic community who reportedly settled in Assam and Nepal)  and their Muslim neighbors erupted into tit-for-tat violence. Entire villages were torched and thousands fled their homes in terror while the government seemed to be paralyzed. While the rest of the world was focused on India's power outage, the north east of the country was grappling with a different kind of darkness.

The rice is still on fire

The stories both sides have to tell are mirror images of each other.

Jizali Boro has just come back from her Bodo village of Bamungaon. Sitting in the Debargaon High School refugee camp she says there's nothing to go back to. "There is no house, no television, no cows, no fan, no cycle. The temple is destroyed. Even the latrine is broken. They have cut down the tamul trees. It is all ashes now." Deuki Narjari says even her pig is gone. "They don't eat pig, why did they take my pig?" she asks.

An hour's journey away, at the Nankargaon High School relief camp, Musa Ali says he cannot even think about going back home now. The villages exist cheek by jowl with Bodo villages. Some are encircled by Bodo homes. Some have a main road that passes through Bodo areas. Ali's younger brother Rahim Ali went back a couple of days ago to water the rice fields. "Even the taps had been ripped out and taken away," he says. "Dhaan ekhono jwolchhey (The unhusked rice is still on fire)," he says. Empty houses are still going up in flames – a warning to those who want to return home.

Now they all live in relief camps on government rations of 600 grams of rice, 100 grams of lentils, and 30 grams of salt and whatever else wellwishers donate. The families have to scrounge for firewood to cook on and beg and borrow pots to cook in.

The burning issue

But each side has a different take about the cause for the conflagration and therein lies a messy story of politics and immigration. The issue of migration has been burning in Assam since the 1970s. It led to a huge massacre in 1983 where almost 2,000 Muslims were killed.

This area has seen waves of violence before as the Bodos fought to carve out their own state of Bodoland in the nineties. Even now in cities like Kokrajhar walls are covered with graffiti that vow "No Bodoland, No Rest." In 2003 the Bodos settled for the creation of semi-autonomous region under the Bodo Territorial Council. But they fear that Muslims will overwhelm them by sheer numbers. Districts here have seen much higher decadal population growth compared to other parts of India. "We feel suffocated because of these illegal immigrants," says Pramod Boro, head of the All Bodo Students Union. "They burst crackers when Pakistan wins in cricket." The Bodos want to make sure only genuine Indian citizens are allowed to go back to their villages. They are already crying foul, saying Muslim leaders are inflating the number of refugees in the camps.

Many of the Muslims came over from Bangladesh after the 1971 war that created that country, though some have been here much longer. But many are much more recent arrivals. "I used to know all the Muslim families in the village. We would eat off the same plate," says one 76-year old Rajbongshi tribal. "Now I see many new faces." The ruling Congress party helped the Muslims get papers and they became a solid vote bank. Muslim leaders accuse the Bodos of ethnic cleansing and the government of standing by idly. "Our houses burned in front of (Assam police)," says Mohammad Amir Hussain from Nalbari village. "We called the police officers again and again. They said they were coming but no one came until it was all ashes." They claim they are the real victims and the Bodos camps are just for show. Muslim leaders want the whole autonomy agreement scrapped and they have tried to rally all non-Bodo minorities into an organization to do just that.

Fishing in troubled waters

There is also no shortage of outsiders who want to fish in these troubled waters. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's leaders say Bangladeshis are trying to make Assam "a Muslim country" and all "Hindus should unite with Bodos to fight against this invasion." The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat quotes a politician as saying "it is a sin to be born Muslim in Assam."

The reality, as always, is far more complicated and tangled. There are many groups here – Bodo, Rajbongshi, Munda Adivasi, Santhals, Muslims – each with its own underground militia. The area is awash in arms and an epidemic of extortion and kidnappings predates this current flare-up. India's tribal people complain they got a raw deal from the government, that outsiders muscle in and buy up their land. New Delhi has long treated the entire north-east as a step child who needed to just shut up and keep providing oil and tea for the rest of the country.

Assam's chief minister, caught flat-footed by the crisis, is trying to take charge. He has transferred top police officials from the worst hit districts. He wants the refugees to go home by August 15, India's independence day. But the refugee camps are not the problem. They are just festering reminders of the much more intractable problem – the fight over land and political power.

Five goats, two pigs and 12 cows

After the third refugee camp, the journalist in me feels already dulled by the litany of suffering, impatient at the sameness of the accounts, each laundry list of loss blurring into the next. Cows lost. Goats killed. Houses burned. Crops torched. Each camp seems to have spokesmen who had been schooled in well-rehearsed talking points whether it is about scrapping Bodo autonomy or sealing the border.

As I turn to leave one camp, a woman who has let the men do the talking until then, timidly touches my elbow. "Won't you write down my story, brother?" she says. "I am from Nithuriabari. You have not written about Nithuriabari."

Her story is really no different from the others. But she tells it with urgency and hope as if by scribbling it down I can right some great wrong. She tells me the story because it is all she has. And I write it down dutifully as if Fatima Bibi's five missing goats, Sanzeeta Basumathari's two missing pigs and Iman Ali's twelve lost cows can add up to something that will explain the scope of the tragedy that engulfs Assam.

How green was my village

On my last day I chance upon a gutted village. There is a burned twisted bicycle lying on its side, next to a blackened pump. The ground is charred and the banana trees are dying. Posts stick out of the ground, the tin roofs stolen by looters. All around the scorched skeleton of this little village the landscape is still idyllic – white storks land daintily on rolling green paddy fields, monsoon clouds gather in the distant horizon, a goat bleats and birds chirp.

But there is no sound of human life. Next to the village that has been razed, there's another village that is intact, its thatched houses unscathed. But it's a ghost village, empty and silent, its residents sheltering in a relief camp somewhere. A mongrel dog stands at the gate and looks at us, perhaps in warning or perhaps hoping for some food.

I try and guess which community this burned village belonged to based on the demographics of the area and the little experience I have garnered in a few days of reporting. But when I ask the army man sitting in lonely vigil down the road I find out I guessed wrong. 

When you burn a village to the ground and ransack it down to the stumps, there's not much left to tell a Bodo village from a Muslim one.

This piece is adapted from a series of articles by Sandip Roy that first appeared on Firstpost.com

Trial: George Floyd's Death


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