Twenty-nine Rohingyas — 18 adults and 11 children — have travelled through three countries, covering over 5,330km over four months, to finally reach a Bengal village that they now call home.
Welcome to the Rohingya Colony, a settlement in Kuruli village in Baruipur, some 45km from Kolkata, where the 29 refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine State have settled down — for the time being — after fleeing their homes and passing through Bangladesh.
The four-week-old settlement has found support from local villagers and an NGO that is active in the belt. The villagers have constructed two-room houses, made of tin, and two common toilets. They have also arranged for electricity, bought cookware and utensil and even arranged for food and clothing for the refugees.
So far, so good: the villagers are confident they will be able to keep their guests forever and ever. But the guests themselves, who have lived through four months of nightmare and have kept their eyes and ears open to the tug-of-war and the politics over their existence, are not so sure. “Yes, the past four weeks have been dreamlike after four months of nomadic life,” 22-year-old Momina Akhtar, a mother of three (the youngest one being two months old), said.
“But we are now scared of being optimistic,” she added. The past four months had taught them that they could not be sure of anything, not even whether they would live to see the next day, she said.
“Villagers here have been extremely helpful and have provided us with everything, from food to clothes, from a roof over our head to essentials like blankets and pullovers. It feels so much like home that we do not want to return to where we have come from,” Akhtar said.
The woman, who has picked up a smattering of Hindi and Bengali, said they were chased out of their home in Segambara village of Maungdow district in Rakhine after their house and agricultural land were set on fire. “My father-in-law has gone missing. I was pregnant but somehow managed to walk through forests and cross the Naf river into Bangladesh. We stayed there in refugee camps for a few days before moving to India after crossing the border at Bongaon,” she added.
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