I have shot these photos on assignment for OPEN Magazine in November 2012. Five women from Andhra Pradesh’s Karimnagar district had earlier approached the State Human Rights Commission seeking permission to sell their kidneys, in a bid to raise the blood money needed to have their husbands released from a prison in the middle-east. The husbands, who were not paid wages for many months by their employers in the middle-east, had resorted to a burglary along with another Indian and four Pakistanis and killed a Nepalese security guard in the process.
Karimnagar, along with East and West Godavari districts, has the highest number of semi-skilled and unskilled labourers migrating to the middle-east from the state. Discussion about working conditions and exploitation of labour in the middle-east has been going on for quite some time in the Telugu media and when the news of the women approaching SHRC came out, it sent shockwaves across the state.
In July 2012, the state of Assam in India's north-east witnessed ethnic riots between the indigenous Bodo tribals and migrant Bengali Muslims. About 100 people are believed to have been killed in the violence and 5,00,000 from both communities were displaced.
The Bodos, a plains tribe constituting 5.5% of Assam's population, have long been demanding a separate state of Bodoland. The agitation took a violent turn in the 80's and 90's with as many as four organizations taking to the gun to fight for their demands. On the other hand, migration of Bengali Muslims to Assam had been going on since the days of British rule but peaked during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 which led to the formation of Bangladesh. But it's the spike in migration again during the recent years that caused much conflict between the two communities.
A series of events that occured in July 2012, beginning with Bodos gunning down two Muslim youth and Muslims retaliating by killing four Bodos, led to large-scale violence and displacement.
Worried by rumours of attacks on Assamese working in other parts of India, many headed back to their hometowns in Assam. On board the Falaknuma Express heading to Kolkata from Hyderabad, many travelled unreserved in crowded coaches, even if it meant standing throughtout the 30-hour journey.
The road from Dotma to Kokrajhar, Assam.
A Bodo boy with wild rabbits caught during a hunt at Geolong Bazar in Kokrajhar, Assam.
A burnt house that belonged to a Bodo family at Tulshibil in Kokrajhar, Assam.
A Bodo villager at Bhawraguri in Kokrajhar, Assam.
Residents of the Dotma Relief Camp offer their afternoon prayers at a makeshift mosque inside the camp.
A National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive) militant at the peace camp in Serfanguri.
A child plays with a wooden gun in Aminkhata, Kokrajhar, Assam.
A poster put up on the doors of a shop in Bazaar Road, Kokrajhar, Assam warns locals against buying from or engaging Bangladeshi migrants in any kind of work.
Ehfaz Ali and Zarin Bibi at the site where their house once stood in Nothunpara, Kokrajhar, Assam.
Mohammed Ghiasuddin goes fishing in the Guruphela near Kurashakati, Kokrajhar, Assam while his son watches on.
A red flag outside a house serves as a sign of presence of Bodo families in a Bodo-majority neighbourhood in Bhowraguri, Kokrajhar, Assam.
A Bodo woman outside her house in Tulshibil, Kokrajhar, Assam.
A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp at Tulshibil, Kokrajhar, Assam. Delayed intervention by the central forces is thought to be one of the reasons for large scale violence during the riots.
A young Bengali Muslim fetches firewood at the Dotma relief camp in Kokrajhar, Assam.
Bodyonath Mushahary in a grove owned by his family in Tulshibil, Kokrajhar, Assam. Fleeing the village while under attack by Bengali Muslims, Bodyonath forgot to take his mother along. He returned eight days later with police escort, only to find her a part of her badly mutilated body lying in the fields.
Locals cross a wooden bridge across the Guruphela river between Bhawraguri and Tulshibil in Kokrajhar, Assam.
Munni from Kurshakati, Kokrajhar, Assam warms herself in the afternoon sun at the small potatao farm owned by her family.
A Bodo woman in her house at Malgaon, Dhubri, Assam.
A Bengali Muslim girl inside a temporary shelter at Kurshakati in Kokrajhar, Assam.
Assamese translations for Assimilated and Assimilation. Half-burnt diary from a destroyed Bodo house, Bhowarguri, Kokrajhar, Assam.
A Bengali Muslim woman herds her cattle back across the Guruphela near Kurshakati, Kokrajhar, Assam.
Ranu Basumatary inside her newly reconstructed house at Tulshibil, Kokrajhar, Assam.
Zuram Ali gathers materials needed to rebuild his destroyed house in Kurshakati, Kokrajhar, Assam.