GUWAHATI, March 26 � The arrival of the refugees from Burma (now Myanmar) in Guwahati town took place much before the arrival of the refugees from the then East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in this town. Noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika made this statement while talking to this correspondent.
During the World War-II, around 1943-44, the people of India origin, having their roots mostly in South and North India, who were living in Burma, deserted the neighbouring country in hordes as the Japanese forces were advancing to new positions in the neighbouring country.
A transit camp was set up to shelter those people temporarily at the Church Field, which is presently known as the Nehru Park. The number of those taking shelter in those camps was between 800 and 1000, some of them were orphans. It was learnt later that some of those people died at the transit camp itself. About 99 per cent of those who survived migrated to their places of origin.
Therefore, those refugees did not have any impact on the socio-political and economic life of the State�s people.
But, most of the Hindu refugees arriving in Guwahati from the erstwhile East Bengal, just after the partition of the country, settled in this town. They settled in the areas like Athgaon, Bishnupur, Natun Basti (Arya Nagar), Fatasil-Ambari and in many parts of south-west Guwahati.
A transit camp was set up for them at the Church Field. In the Silpukhuri area of Guwahati, about 100 of those refugee families settled on a huge plot of land belonging to prominent Assamese bureaucrat-turned-social worker Rai Saheb Sonadhar Senapati. Rai Saheb Senapati himself took the initiative to settle them on that plot of land.
That particular plot of land later became known as the Noakhali Colony, as the refugee families were from the Noakhali district of the erstwhile East Bengal.
Later, majority of the East Bengal refugees, sheltered initially in Guwahati, left for other places of Assam and the rest of the country. Some of those refugees stayed back in Guwahati and also in the Silpukhuri area. The Noakhali Colony name has now gone into oblivion and it is now known as the Senapati Colony.
For the economic rehabilitation of the refugees, the Second Chief Minister of the post-Independent Assam, Late Bishnu Ram Medhi, set up a market at Rehabari on the AK Azad Road, with all modern amenities. But the leaders of the refugee population refused to accept the idea of setting up any business establishment at this market and demanded such facilities at Paltan Bazar.
The Rehabari Refugee Market remained abandoned for several years and the State Government then established an Industrial Training Institute on that site. This is now the office of the Director of Employment.
Some of the progenies of those refugees, who stayed back in Guwahati, are now leading citizens of the city. While some of them are the leading businessmen, some others are leading social workers, sports organisers or players, among others, said the noted writer.