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Demand for land rights

- Demonstration in Kokrajhar against encroachment; sit-in for honorarium in Dhubri

Kokrajhar, July 3: Members of indigenous communities in Kokrajhar today staged a three-hour sit-in here, demanding implementation of Chapter X of Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886, evacuation of encroachers from tribal land belts and blocks, restoration of encroached land to people along with other demands.

Organised by the Janajati Suraksha Mancha, a platform of indigenous communities, hundreds of people from Bodo, Garo and Rabha communities, holding placards, festoons and banners, participated in the protest shouting slogans and demanding protection of tribal areas and safeguard of indigenous people.

A memorandum was submitted to the Kokrajhar deputy commissioner demanding protection of the tribal belts and blocks in Assam and restoration of tribal land to the indigenous people.

The memorandum mentioned that because of rampant encroachment by outsiders, including immigrants from Bangladesh, of tribal belts and blocks, the indigenous people have lost their land. It accused the government of not taking steps to safeguard the land for political interests.

“The tribal belts and blocks were created under the provisions of Chapter X of the Assam Land and Land Revenue Regulation Act, 1886, as amended in 1947, for the purpose of protecting the backward and aboriginal indigenous people of Assam. … the Assam government has been encouraging other non-notified people to encroach upon the tribal belts and blocks and settle there permanently,” it mentioned.

“According to Section 164 of the Assam Land and Land Revenue Regulation Act, no person to whom any land is transferred in the belts or blocks in contravention of the provision of the Chapter X shall acquire any right or title in that land by length of possession whether adverse or not. They are liable to evicted from the tribal belts and blocks which the government either in the centre or state must carry out forthwith.”

The memorandum also mentioned, “…the fact and extent of encroachment in the tribal belts and blocks by non-notified people are known to the state government. The state government created nine posts of additional deputy commissioner in 1983 and 16 sub-deputy collectors in 1984 separately for proper land and revenue administration in tribal belts and blocks. They were specially instructed to identify encroachers and take necessary actions for their eviction. They were instructed to submit monthly progress report on the progress of eviction from land, disposal of land alienation cases and restoration of alienated land at the end of every month to the revenue (reforms) department, government of Assam. But all remained on paper and nothing has been executed.”

It also stated that the encroachers are the root cause of violent conflicts in the BTAD.

As of now, 3,49,505 bighas, four kothas and eight lessas of land in tribal belts, blocks and sub-plan areas have been encroached illegally in the BTAD area alone according to data provided by the Bodoland Territorial Council.