Tripura floods: It rains in Agartala’s Radhamadhab temple relief camp for communal harmony

With flood waters rising in the incessant rains over the past few days, humanity has taken a front seat in Tripura as a group of Hindus and Muslims came together to shelter homeless people near Radhanagar slum , and that too in a temple.

Radhamadhab Temple, located very close to the 50-year-old Radhanagar slum near Agartala, is today a temple of communal harmony in the hour of testing. A group of volunteers, including Muslims, were seen moving freely in and around the temple, which opened its doors to 300 people from 53 displaced families. It was one of the seven camps initially opened by the government.

Veteran Rahima Khatoon lies on a mattress trying to get relief from the problems of old age. She says that flood waters cause a lot of trouble every year and it is very difficult for them to escape to the camps. (Express Photo: Debraj Deb)

A volunteer, 53-year-old Haran Miya, said Hindus and Muslims living in the area are closely related and have come together to help each other when the floods displaced them.

Agartala, a city of 76.51 sq km, has over 52 notified slums, housing over 6,000 families. Among them there are about 650 families in Radhanagar slum. As part of a 2013 mission to make Tripura slum-free, part of the slum was redeveloped and 80 families were rehabilitated there. However, a large part of the slums still live in small tin or thatched temporary huts.

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Residents had to be shifted to relief camps three days ago when flood waters entered these shanties, which was one of the worst rains in the last 62 years.

A child digs into his allotted entire vegetable tiffin at the camp, oblivious to the life disrupted by the floods around him. (Express Photo: Debraj Deb)

A group of social activists from different religious and ethnic communities came together to form volunteer teams working for the displaced people who were sheltered in three government camps set up at Kathaltali, Kabarkhola and Radhamadhab temples.

Haran, a Muslim, said cooked meals are provided at a local wedding hall to all those homeless in the heavy rains. The victims were housed in a local temple – the Radhamadhab Temple, regardless of their religion.

“The local community has extended a helping hand to all. Here we all live together. The temple authorities have also cooperated with us.”

Papon Banik is glued to his TV at the relief camp. (Express Photo: Debraj Deb)

Manorama Begum, a 59-year-old Muslim woman from the slum, said she reached the temple on Saturday evening when water stored in her makeshift hut. His 35-year-old daughter-in-law, Sarla Khatoon, says that life is tough amid repeated flood conditions every year due to incessant rains.

“I waited 5-6 hours to see how things would be before I actually came here. This flood is such a nuisance. Our homes are affected every year. Things go bad. We are poor,” Sarla said.

The camps faced many problems, with theft being one of the major concerns besides displacement induced by storm water.

Sabita Debbarma reached relief camp with daughter (Express Photo: Debraj Deb)

Sarla’s husband Bacchu Miya and many others like her were not found in the camp as they were running out of water to save their small property from thieves, as was the case in the last monsoon.

Rahima Khatoon, another Muslim, was also among those who took refuge in the temple. Most of the elderly women like Rahima in these slums cannot tell their age, but her daughter-in-law Shajeda Khatoon said that the age of the elderly is close to 100 years.

Asked if they were getting along well in a place that was fast becoming cramped, 80-year-old Brajbala Das said, “Flood waters do not separate people on the basis of faith. We are all equal We’ve always been here like that.”

His words echoed the opinion of all the prisoners in the relief camp set up at the Radhamadhab temple. He said that the flood has disturbed the normal life of all and living together is the only option.

Haran Miya (Express Photo: Debraj Deb)

18-year-old Papon Banik was seen sitting in a corner of the camp with his valuables – a flat TV and an LPG cylinder.

“The water has submerged my house. I tried to get TV, gas cylinder, some clothes, while my relatives helped us shift our bed to their place for a while. It wastes so much water every year. Sometimes, we have to carry our luggage on our backs,” he said, recalling the flood situation repeatedly.

45-year-old Sabita Debbarma, a tribal woman who was all soaked in water, was seen running into the camp with her daughter. She said she had gone to the relief camp the night before, but was still fetching items from her hut as she feared they might be damaged or stolen.

As the rains continue in Tripura, with the water level in the rivers approaching the danger mark, the good Samaritans keep working quietly. As they say, the worst brings out the best in people.

Social worker Arindam Chakraborty (Express Photo: Debraj Deb)

Two people injured, one reported missing

The local administration had initially announced only seven relief camps across the city. As per the latest reports, there are 2,485 displaced families residing in 46 camps. Two people have been injured and one is reported missing in the floods.

Arindam Chakraborty, one of the volunteers, told IE.com, “We are also raising funds and managing daily operations in the three camps ourselves, apart from providing medical and essential supplies provided by the local administration,” Chakraborty said. .

Arindam and his friends are raising funds to meet an expenditure of Rs 15,000 a day for the supply of milk, biscuits, khichdi and drinking water to the relief camps. But as more people are arriving, Arindam thinks newcomers should explore camps with fewer prisoners.

The administration is arranging free visits to doctors, medical supplies, drinking water etc in the camps, but these Good Samaritans have taken it upon themselves to see the crisis.

Manorama Begum (Express Photo: Debraj Deb)

Howrah river water level is coming down

Meanwhile, the state administration has said that the water level of various rivers, especially the Howrah river, which practically encircles the city of Agartala, is coming down. The water level in the Howrah river was learned to be still close to the danger level, while the rivers Gomti, Khowai, Muhuri, Feni, Juri, Kakri, Manu etc. were below the expected flood level.