The Telegraph
Friday , April 11 , 2014
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Villagers flee no-man’s land

Jorhat, April 10: Left to fend for themselves, at least three families of the Bhagyalakhi area, along the Assam-Nagaland border, here have fled home fearing attacks by goons from across the border.

More families of this settlement, most of them ex-tea community members, are also likely to flee home.

“No political party or their agents visited us during the election campaign. There is no one to look after us. At least three families have fled in the last few days and we are also thinking of leaving as we feel there is no one to protect us from goons from across the border,” Rabi Orang, a resident of Bhagyalakhi, told The Telegraph today.

The 40-odd families of the area under Titabar subdivision here were issued a notice by a village council from Nagaland, directing them to “vacate the place as the land belonged to Nagaland”.

The notice, by the chairman of Amboto Old Village Council in Wokha district of Nagaland, was issued on February 20 and the villagers of Bhagyalakhi had received it on March 4. It directed the villagers to vacate the area within 20 days from the date of issue.

The notice stated that the 52 bighas of land where these families are settled belong to Nagaland.

Though the Assam authorities had held a discussion with their Nagaland counterparts in this regard, the neighbouring state justified the notice saying the area belonged to that state.

Rabi said though the villagers have cast their votes this time, there was no real motivation.

“We cast our votes just like that. We have no faith in any political party now,” he said.

These families had settled in the Bhagyalakhi area nearly a decade ago and earn a living by working as farm labourers in nearby villages or by selling firewood.

Rabi said the only benefit they get from government schemes is that their children get a free meal at an Anganwadi centre nearby where they go to study.

“Forget about political parties, no government official has visited us since we settled here. A government team finally arrived after hearing about the notice from the Nagaland village council,” he said.

Rabi said though there were no more threats from the Nagaland side after the issue of the notice, the villagers continue to live in fear as “anything can happen anytime.”

“We have given up going to the nearby hills to collect firewood as we fear attacks,” he said.

The All Tea Tribes Students Association had taken up the issue and had raised a protest against the failure of the Assam government to protect the villagers.

The association’s assistant general secretary Dhiraj Gowala said the villagers continue to live in fear and the authorities have failed to protect them.

It has demanded posting of a police picket permanently in the area.

Assam and Nagaland have been at loggerheads over the border issue since the latter was declared a separate state in 1963.

The boundary dispute continued to remain unresolved despite a mediation process initiated by the Supreme Court a few years ago.

Nagaland maintains that Assam has encroached on over 59,000 hectares of its land along the inter-state boundary.

Assam denies this allegation and claims that Nagaland has encroached upon large tracts of its land along the boundary. This dispute has witnessed several incidents of bloodshed.

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