Eviction: Assam’s bloody model

The evictions and police shootings last week in Darang, Assam, in northeastern India, were debated globally. The publication of a video of a photographer trampling on the body of a young man who was shot and killed by the police has also negatively affected India’s image globally. Chief Minister Himanta Bishwa Sharma has announced a judicial investigation into the cause of the violence. Land grabbing by the landless and police evictions are a daily occurrence in Assam. There are constant conflicts between various tribal communities over land rights. Five Assam policemen were shot and killed by Mizoram police during a clash on the Mizoram state border in August. The border dispute between the two states led to the killings. After the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, India accepted refugees from Bangladesh. Later, as the political equation changed, they began to be portrayed as immigrants. The policy of expelling foreigners is very popular in Assam.

Darang eviction

Authorities say police tried to evict those who illegally invaded government land. The government claims that the plan was to hand over the confiscated land to the locals. The government claims to have evicted 1,200 to 1,300 encroaching families from 6,100 acres of publicly owned land. Most of them are Bengali-speaking Muslims. In June, the Chief Minister had announced that land invasions in the area would be evacuated and a wall would be built for the Dholpur Shiva temple. The CM said that a guest house for the temple would be built at the government’s expense. After this, 9.6 million rupees was approved for an agricultural project called the Garukutty project. The stated objective of the project was afforestation and agrarianization with the participation of tribal youth. The district administration then declared the area as Community Agricultural Land. In June, seven families were evacuated from the area near the temple. They are all farmers or day laborers. The defendants claim that they came to Darang from Assam’s Barpeta and Golpara districts after the Brahmaputra River overflowed. They claim that they are not foreigners and that they bought the land 40 years ago with money from the locals.

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According to the locals

Local organizations have long campaigned to evict land grabbers from the government. Prabhajan Virodhi Manch and Sangrami Satirtha Sammelan are two organizations that advocate for the locals. But anti-Prabhajan Munch leader Upamanyu Hazari said the victims of the five previous evictions in the area were local. The High Court accepted the petition filed by 200 families in Dholpur against the eviction. The government responded that the petitioners were land grabbers. Authorities began eviction procedures last week before the petitioners responded to the government’s affidavit. Santhanam Bhorthakaur, a lawyer who appeared on behalf of the petitioners, asked the government not to take any action without resolving the case.

Evacuation and violence

On September 20, 800 families were evacuated from two villages in Dholpur. But no compensation or rehabilitation was provided. This was followed by a protest led by the All Assam Minority Students Union demanding compensation and rehabilitation. The government held talks with the protesters as the protests escalated. He also promised compensation. But Ainuddin Ahmed, leader of the Assam All Minority Students’ Union, said the violence was caused by failed attempts to evacuate again. Darang SP Sushant Bishwa Sharma also alleged that the problems stemmed from the unprovoked attack on the police despite the agreement.

Eviction

Although land grabbing and evictions are common in Assam, there are reports that police action has increased since the BJP came to power. The BJP had announced in its manifesto that it would recover the lands owned by the government. The confiscated land was promised to the Adivasis. After coming to power, 70 families were evicted from Hoja and 25 families from Sonitpur. Human rights researcher Abdul Kalam Azad says the government takes a different stance on the evacuation of tribes and minorities. He accused the government of having communal-political interests in evicting minorities.

The Chief Minister says

The CM alleged that the invaders were only talking about floods and landslides. The people of Assam are declining in Assam. The government will not bow to the threat of the invaders. It says the evictees will each receive two acres of land.

That the Popular Front be outlawed

The Chief Minister of Assam has alleged that the Popular Front was involved in the land dispute in Darang. The activists of the Popular Front had visited the place under the pretext of giving food to the locals. The confrontation took place after their arrival. Six people, including a university professor, visited the area. The CM also said that it had sent a letter to the Central Government asking it to outlaw the Popular Front. NDTV reports that the leaders of the Assam Popular Front faction have denied the allegations made by the Chief Minister. The organization’s leaders say that the Popular Front is not working in Darang and no one has visited there.

History of the conflict in Assam

The conflict areas are now within the boundaries of the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha constituency, where the anti-foreigner agitation began in Assam. In 1979, 855 people were killed in an upheaval started by the All Assam Student Union. The so-called Assam Compromise is an agreement signed between the Assam organizations and the Central Government after strong fighting. The compromise agreement was signed in 1985 in the presence of then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Through the agreement, the Central Government is committed to protecting the cultural, economic and political rights of the indigenous people of Assam. The agreement also stipulates that only those who emigrated to Assam before January 1, 1966 are to be accepted. The Central Government had previously declared that those who emigrated to Assam after March 25, 1971 would be deported. ****

[Compiled by അനീബ് പി.എ]

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