Govt accused of sheltering encroachers

The Prabajan Virodhi Manch, an anti-foreigners' organisation, today accused the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government of supporting encroachers. Moreover, the organisation's leader, Upamanyu Hazarika, alleged that they were facing government harassment for speaking out against it.

By RAJIV KONWAR in Guwahati
  • Published 14.10.17
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Upamanyu Hazarika in Guwahati on Friday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Oct. 13: The Prabajan Virodhi Manch, an anti-foreigners' organisation, today accused the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government of supporting encroachers. Moreover, the organisation's leader, Upamanyu Hazarika, alleged that they were facing government harassment for speaking out against it.

Hazarika told reporters that their publicity convener, Akash Kalita, was served summons in a more than a year-old case a day after the Manch released a video clip showing how government officials in central Assam's Darrang district repeatedly failed to keep their promise of evicting illegal encroachers from government land. The video had also featured chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Hazarika said according to government records, 26,000 acres of grazing reserve at Siphajhar in Darrang had been encroached upon by those of "doubtful nationality".

The Manch said instead of evicting the encroachers, the state government has been providing amenities like housing, schools and dispensaries to them.

"After public protests, government officials have been assuring since December 2015, on at least four occasions, that eviction would be carried out within the next three months of every assurance. The latest assurance specified October 31 as the outer date for carrying out eviction," he said.

Kalita had filed a complaint with Siphajhar police station in July last year that there had been encroachment on the premises of an ancient Shiva temple of Dholpur in Siphajhar of Darrang and that encroachment was taking place in front of the police post. The complaint alleged that the police were guilty of aiding encroachment.

No action was taken after this complaint.

"However, Kalita came to know on Sunday that the head of the police station had also filed a complaint saying that encroachment was taking place in spite of his best efforts and mentioning Kalita's complaint. The complaint was taken up and a case registered and a chargesheet was filed on August 28 last year making Kalita the sole accused. The case against Kalita was primarily of criminal intimidation and obscenity. For 14 months nothing happened and suddenly after the release of the video clip on Sunday, the summons was served," Hazarika, who is also a Supreme Court lawyer, said.

"Apart from being a complete subversion of justice, this is also a clear violation of freedom of speech, just because the chief minister and senior officers of the government were shown in the video clip," he said.

Hazarika said in May this year a complaint was filed against one Parimal Gore, for waging war against the state, for forwarding a message on WhatsApp, which was critical of Sonowal.

Hazarika said they will take legal measure against officials of the Darrang district if they failed to evict the encroachers by October 31.