Guwahati, April 29: The Asian Centre for Human Rights has urged the National Human Rights Commission to file criminal charges against officials responsible for burning down properties during the eviction drive at Lungsung under the Bodoland Territorial Council in October last year, which led to the death of a child.
“Those who have been evicted, irrespective of whether they are legal residents or alleged encroachers, are human beings and citizens of the country,” Suhas Chakma, director of Asian Centre for Human Rights, said at a news conference here today.
He said these people had certain rights, including the opportunity of being heard against any eviction and to place their evidence of residence, before an eviction drive was carried out. “No law in this country allows burning down of houses during an eviction drive,” he added.
The eviction was carried out in Haltugaon division of Chirang reserve forest on November 3 and October 30 and 31 last year. Nearly 1,500 huts spread over 6,000 hectares were destroyed and around 40 people were arrested during the drive. The encroachers were people from various communities such as Bodos, Adivasis, Nepalis and Garos.
The rights centre had filed a complaint with the NHRC, which directed the Assam government to file reports.
The divisional forest officer of Haltugaon, Kokrajhar, C. Ramesh, in his report to the NHRC said, “The huts were not burnt down by the eviction team as they were strictly ordered only to dismantle them. It is learnt that the encroachers themselves burnt their houses to flare up the issue and put the blame on the eviction team.”
The rights centre alleged that these were blatant lies and, in its reply to the NRHC, provided evidence that all the houses and schools were burnt during the eviction drive.
The centre’s representatives conducted a field visit on December 24 and 25 for a spot study on the eviction drive and interviewed the victims and organised a public hearing. This was followed by another visit by Adivasi activist Gladson Dungdung and his field team from January 3 to 14.