Guwahati, Sept 23: The Assam Government has once again found itself at the receiving end of widespread criticism from different quarters for evicting at least 800 families, occupying about 4,500 bighas of land, in Darrang district of Upper Assam during a drive against “illegal encroachment” on Monday.
The All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) on Wednesday had organised a protest at Darrang and said that they will write 50 letters to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) on the “gross violation of targeted human rights violation of the minority community.”
“We aren’t against eviction of government land, but there should have been a rehabilitation program for the evicted people too,” said Rejaul Karim Sarkar, president of AAMSU.
Following the drive, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had tweeted, “Continuing our drive against illegal encroachments, I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and @assampolice for having cleared about 4500 bigha, by evicting 800 households, demolishing 4 illegal religious structures and a private instn at Sipajhar, Darrang.”
Continuing our drive against illegal encroachments, I am happy and compliment district administration of Darrang and @assampolice for having cleared about 4500 bigha, by evicting 800 households, demolishing 4 illegal religious structures and a private instn at Sipajhar, Darrang. pic.twitter.com/eXG6XBNH6j
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) September 20, 2021
He added that he had inspected such riverine areas “encroached by illegal settlers near Dholpur Shiva Mandir” in June. “I had assured temple mgmt & local people to set up a Manikut, build a guest house & boundary wall. Today’s eviction is aimed at starting community farming by removing encroachment.”
‘Garukhuti Project’ in Sipajhar
In Sipajhar, where the eviction took place on Monday, the government plans to implement its multi-crore ‘Garukhuti Project’ (part of the state budget 2021-22), where the freed up land will be used for afforestation and agriculture activities, involving indigenous youth.
Eviction drive draws flak
Monday’s drive has drawn criticism from Opposition parties as well as human rights activists for evicting people without a proper rehabilitation plan.
“We are not against the agricultural project – in fact, we had many meetings with the chief minister regarding this and all we had asked for was proper rehabilitation. But this is a human rights violation and targeted against a particular community,” Sarkar said.
Congress MP Abdul Khaleque responded to the development by tweeting out his letter to the Gauhati High Court during the June eviction. He wrote: “Considering the Covid-19 pandemic, a full bench of Hon’ble Gauhati High Court headed by the Chief Justice, vide its order dated 10.05.2021, has ordered that any decree for eviction/dispossession or demolition should remain in abeyance.” Adding that the evictions are a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, he said: “I always oppose eviction without a proper rehabilitation plan. Darrang eviction is inhuman.”
Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal also criticised the eviction drive. In a video statement, party secretary Ashraful Islam said that they were not opposing the agricultural revolution. “But in the name of agricultural revolution, the poor communities which have been living there for generations working in the agriculture sector itself are being evicted. Is this revolution?” he asked.