Muslim body cries foul as Assam evicts illegal settlers from reserve forest
Official sources said there was no resistance from the illegal settlers and the drive was peaceful.
GUWAHATI: The Assam government on Monday launched another drive to evict encroachers but a Muslim students’ body cried foul over the alleged “selective” actions of the administration.
The authorities used elephants, excavators and tractors as it carried out a massive drive to clear encroachment at the Lumding Reserve Forest in Hojai district.
Official sources said there was no resistance from the illegal settlers and the drive was peaceful. The authorities deployed around 1,000 security personnel, including four companies of the CRPF.
During a similar drive at Darrang a few weeks ago, two persons had died in police firing when violence broke out.
The drive at Lumding, being carried out at the direction of the Gauhati High Court, will continue till Tuesday. On September 30 this year, the court had directed the government to clear the encroachment in a phase-wise manner.
The forest covers an area of 22,403 hectares. Around 1,410 hectares are under encroachment. Some 1,500 families, settled there, built a school, a church and a mosque. They were doing the cultivation of ginger and turmeric.
Hojai Superintendent of Police Barun Purkayastha said many illegal settlers had moved away after being convinced by the district administration.
“Many have vacated their houses while others are ready to leave. We are trying to convince some who are refusing to leave,” Purkayastha said.
Some settlers had earlier moved the court, claiming that they have been living there for several decades.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the encroachment was business-centric, indicating the land was sold to the settlers by the mafia. He said one Nazrul had brought people from Barpeta and Dhubri to destroy the forest.
Meanwhile, the CPI-ML slammed the government for issuing notices to people settled on sandbars at Dhing in neighbouring Nagaon district. Claiming that the settlers relocated after being affected by the floods, the party said the ongoing eviction drives were aimed at harassing the Muslims.
The All Assam Minorities Students’ Union (AAMSU) staged a sit-in demo at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday in protest against the eviction drives.
In a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the students’ body alleged the Assam government, as a part of a political agenda, engaged itself in an “arbitrary, selective and illegal eviction” of genuine Indians without verifying historical reality, thereby forcing these people to live a “beastly nomadic life”.
“A large section of the religious minority community settled on the banks of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, ushering an era of the agricultural revolution. However, they also face the wrath of the rivers as hundreds of hectares of land get submerged due to devastating floods and erosion leading to frequent migration,” the AAMSU said.
It said the government was duty-bound to provide basic amenities of life and rehabilitate these displaced families.