The eviction drive in Amchang reserve forest on August 25. File picture
Guwahati, Sept. 24: The eviction drive at Amchang wildlife sanctuary here, which was put on hold by the state government last month following protests, will resume in November.
The state government officially maintains that the eviction drive was suspended after requests from some settlers who wished to vacate the forestland voluntarily and to chalk out a better execution plan. However, sources claimed that the government took the decision after succumbing to pressure from certain groups and MLAs of the ruling coalition.
Last month's eviction drive was carried out after a Gauhati High Court order.
Organisations like the Takam Mising Porin Kebang, an organisation of Mising students, and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti had protested against the eviction of people belonging to indigenous communities like the Misings, Rabhas and Boros, who had settled in Amchang after losing their homes to erosion in Majuli, Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts.
According to sources, a couple of MLAs, who represent the Mising-dominated constituencies, had also opposed the drive.
An official source told The Telegraph that the state forest department, in an affidavit filed in Gauhati High Court recently, said another drive would be undertaken in November to free the wildlife sanctuary of encroachment.
The affidavit said on August 25, a drive was conducted to remove encroachment from the sanctuary and as many as 283 encroachments were removed.
"We appreciate the removal of encroachment from the wildlife sanctuary by the state government and we hope that the sanctuary will soon be free of encroachment. We, however, direct the state government to ensure that encroachments do not mushroom again in places where they have already been removed and that the state government shall take effective steps in this regard," a division bench of Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Justice Manojit Bhuyan said.
The court asked the state government to file a fresh status report on November 30.
Around 2,000 people were affected and about 200 hectares of forestland was cleared during the August 25 eviction, which was conducted according to a high court order passed on August 2 in connection with a PIL (suo moto). The high court took up the PIL taking notice of a letter written by NGO Early Birds to the chief justice detailing how the sanctuary was being encroached upon.
Amchang wildlife sanctuary, on the eastern fringes of the city, comprises Amchang, South Amchang and Khanapara reserve forests.
Of its 78.64 square km area, around 500 hectares, mostly in the Khanapara reserve forest, were being encroached upon.
A survey in 2014 had found 1,114 households with a population of 6,000 in 24 locations inside Amchang.
Home to diverse flora and fauna, including 44 species of mammals and over 250 species of birds, Amchang offers every opportunity to be developed as an ideal tourist spot, especially for hiking and trekking.