GUWAHATI, April 8 - Continued security and military operations can cause a larger collateral damage on livelihood and mental health of the affected people, found a fact-finding team of experts in Tinsukia and Charaideo districts of Assam.
In the bordering areas of both districts, having a long history of clashes between militants and security forces, the population including elderly and juveniles displayed overt signs indicative of active Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the internationally standardised screening assessment for mental health.
The study, though conducted on a small sample size, was indicative of a high level of depression and anxiety among the majority of the sample screened.
A number of facts have been brought to light by the independent fact-finding mission that was carried out in the sensitive Pengeri and Kakopathar areas of Tinsukia and the Balijan area of Charaideo district from March 31 to April 2.
�The school students have been major victims of such operations. The Balijan ME and Primary School that the team visited during the study is a major example of this,� said Bondita Acharya of Women in Governance (WinG), Assam, who was a part of the team addressing the media here today.
The school she referred to has been used as a temporary Army camp from time to time, allegedly without the permission of the district administration. �Under an officer of Major rank, soldiers occupy the camp and carry out operations, investigation, etc., from the school. The school runs in such an atmosphere where the children have to witness everything,� she added.
The study found that such schools were regularly occupied by security forces for extended periods creating fear and anxiety among teachers and students. �Many families who own agricultural lands have had to sell or mortgage them in order to pay court expenses and execute bail bonds and pay for medical treatment.�
Kirity Roy, secretary of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), also a part of the team, referred to a case of Miao police station, where two persons were killed in an alleged Army encounter.
�In two alleged encounters of Anupam Moran alias Naga Mann and Deep Chutiya of Tinsukia in December 2016, the team found that nowhere the Assam Police, the State Government or the Assam Rifles adhered to the National Human Rights Commission norms prescribed in the cases of encounter deaths or deaths in police custody. The post-mortem reports raise several questions about the encounter,� he added.
�The study also found that individuals who had experienced trauma recently during November 2016 to January this year exhibited acute stress disorder. The assessment of the victims and their family members was done during home visits by the team,� said Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy, a mental health expert and member of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.
Other experts of the team included Sukla Dev Mitra, Roshmi Goswami, Sinumoni Bora, Amrita Pritam Gogoi, Pooja Kotoky and Dipali Phukon.