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Amchang eviction suspended

Dispur succumbs to pressure, HC dismisses petition against drive

A Staff Reporter Guwahati Published 29.08.17, 12:00 AM
KMSS activists clash with police in Tezpur on Monday. Picture by UB Photos
Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi in Guwahati on Monday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Aug. 28: The Assam government has decided to "temporarily suspend" the eviction drive at Amchang wildlife sanctuary, apparently succumbing to pressure from different quarters, including a few legislators.

Hundreds of people affected by the eviction drive also took out a rally under the aegis of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) at Panjabari today to protest against the drive.

An official source said chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal directed suspension of the eviction drive for the "time being" after various organisations and individuals opposed eviction of people belonging to indigenous communities like the Mising, Rabha and Boro, who had settled at Amchang after losing their homes to river-bank erosion in Majuli, Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts.

"Not only organisations like the Takam Mising Porin Kebang, an organisation of Mising students, and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, but a section of MLAs of the ruling coalition, who represent the Mising-dominated constituencies, have also opposed the eviction drive as a result of which the state government was forced to temporarily suspend it," the source said, adding that it is not clear when the drive would resume.

Altogether 283 houses were dismantled, affecting around 2,000 people, and between 150 and 200 hectares of forest land cleared of encroachment in the eviction drive carried out on August 25. The drive was launched after Gauhati High Court, in an order passed on August 2, gave the state government a month's time to clear encroachments from the wildlife sanctuary.

Eviction protesters today tried to march towards Dispur, shouting slogans like Tez dim, mati nidiu (We will give blood, not land) but were stopped by police at Six Mile. They dispersed when Dispur circle officer Ranjit Konwar announced that the eviction had been stopped.

The protesters, who also sought land patta (deed), demanded that the boundary of the wildlife sanctuary be re-demarcated.

KMSS general secretary Dharjya Konwar said the circle officer agreed to the demand. He said the eviction drive goes against the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which states that land rights should be given to indigenous people living in forest areas since December 13, 2005.

Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi termed the ongoing eviction as a part of the "anti-indigenous people policy" of the BJP-led government in the state.

"Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal himself belongs to an indigenous community but the eviction drive has made his anti-indigenous people policy clear," he told reporters here this afternoon.

Gauhati High Court, however, today dismissed a petition filed by a group of residents of Yousuf Nagar and Bojra NK village to stop the eviction drive claiming that these areas fall under revenue land and not forest land. These two places are among the human habitations, allegedly located inside Amchang wildlife sanctuary, where eviction had taken place on August 25.

A single-judge bench of Justice Suman Shyam also withdrew its order passed on August 25 to maintain status quo.

The petitioners have now decided to file a fresh plea before a division bench of the high court.

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