|Eviction drive under police protection|
A well-known advocacy group, Delhi Action Committee (DAC), has accused Assam’s BJP government of creating “paranoia" against the minority inhabitants of "erstwhile East Bengal origin”, pointing to the police action on September 19, which led to the death of two persons during protests, Anjuma Khatun and Fakhruddin.
The demonstration was led by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) at Banderdubi revenue village near the Kaziranga National Park. The protestors were demanding resettlement and adequate compensation against an eviction drive.
The eviction drive was being carried out to the Gauhati High Court ordered in October last year that Banderdubi and Deochurchang near Kaziranga National Park be cleared of encroachers. According to industries minister Chandra Mohan Patowary the state government was “committed to the protection of Kaziranga”, adding, "The eviction was carried out as per the orders of the High Court.”
Another minister, looking after health and education portfolio, Himanta Biswa Sarma, complimented the Nagaon district administration for its “successful eviction drive” saying, "Our government will never compromise on jati (identity), mati (land) and bheti (home).”
Taking strong exception to this view, DAC says, “The villagers, belonging mainly to the Muslim community of erstwhile East Bengal origin, have been residing in the village for more than half a century” adding, “Out of the 198 displaced families from Banderdubi, around 40 have moved in with their relatives and the rest have been compelled to seek shelter in Baghmari, a nearby village under the open skies.”
Pointing out that the authorities “not yet any relief measures to reach them”, the DAC statement says, “The seven Hindu families that lived in the village were informed before and were reportedly asked to move into safe places before the commencement of the forceful eviction drive, which highlights the communal agenda of the state administration.”
Calling Sarma view, posted on Facebook, that the new government would never compromise on “jati, mati, and bheti”, DAC says, it is “rhetoric” to pit “one section of society against another”, adding, the state government is resorting to “gross misinformation and falsehood” to allegedly “recover” the Assamese nation from the outsiders – Bangladeshis.
DAC says, “These villages have been in those areas even before official recognition of Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary as a National Park, its inhabitants are not encroachers but revenue-paying villagers.” It refers to records of the villages Banderdubi and Deochur Chang, saying they “came into existence in 1951 and the government granted patta (land entitlements) in 1961.”
“The names of the villagers were inserted into the voters’ list in 1965 for the assembly election, and a government school was established there in 1966. On the other hand, Kaziranga was declared as a National Park by the central government on February 11, 1974”, DAC says.
Claims DAC, “The villagers were willing to abide by the Gauhati High Court order and evict the land voluntarily for the cause of conservation of the national park, but were simply demanding resettlement and adequate compensation and enough time to comply with the court’s order.”
It adds, “In the consequent clash between the police and the local people, the police blatantly resorted to extreme brutality, first with tear gas and then with live bullets. Apart from the casualties, five more people have been severely injured.”
Those who have signed the statement on behalf of the DAC are Biswajit Bora, Shalim M Hussain, Jyotirmoy Talukdar, Sukruta Alluri, Bonojit Hussain, Mayur Chetia, Nayan Jyoti , Lokesh, Kislay Gonsalvez, Amrapali Basumatary, Usman Jawed, and Apoorva Gautam.