By Muslim Mirror
On Wednesday, the Lakhimpur district of Assam began its drive to evict Bengali-speaking Muslim communities from forest land, putting 299 houses on a 250-hectare land in the dark.
Most of the Bengali-speaking Muslims who were forcibly relocated stated they were unable to collect all of their belongings and that their crops had also been harmed.
According to authorities, 200 civic officials, 600 police, and CRPF members, as well as 43 excavators and 25 tractors, were deployed for the operation in Mohghuli village.
Hasmat Alam (name changed on request), a witness to the demolition of his home, claimed to have lived in the neighborhood for the last 28 years.
“The crop was successful this year. I raised cauliflower, cabbage, and brinjal, and I also sold part of the vegetables in the market. Nevertheless, the drive damaged around 70% of the crop,” he said.
Authorities were observed destroying the crops using tractors and bulldozers. The ponds and fisheries were also filled by the excavators.
The All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) described the eviction campaign as “inhuman and one-sided” and organized a small demonstration in the Lakhimpur district’s Sonapur neighborhood.
One of those impacted by the campaign, Rahima Khatun, claimed that agriculture was their sole source of subsistence.
“The area where the drive was taking place has neither a mosque nor a school; instead, agriculture is the main usage of these areas. Our survival is now in jeopardy,” she said.
Some of the victims also said that the 500 Hindu families that lived on the property were unaffected by the drive.
One of them stated that the “government must evict them too” if it is truly worried about encroachment.
The senior official said that since November 2021, the “illegal settlers” had received many orders to leave the property.
“We gave them the final warning and requested that they stop growing crops on September 7 of last year, but they disregarded our request. The evicted land is perpetually flooded in the summer, and the encroachers only plant crops there in the winter,” he said.
Ashok Kumar Dev Choudhury, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Lakhimpur, stated that just 0.32 square kilometers of the 46 square kilometers of Pava Reserve Forest were free.
“Over the previous three decades, 701 households have encroached on the Pava Reserve Forest area,” he claimed.
“These settlers asked in 2006 to have their settlement designated as a ‘Forest Village’ but the government denied their request. In July of last year, 84 households filed paperwork claiming land ownership, but those were later discovered to be false,” Choudhury said.
“If a person goes to the forest, he will discover no trace of it. It has been turned into a rural hamlet. Pava was formerly famed for its wild buffaloes, but owing to expansion over the last three decades, all animals have gone,” he added.
Several state and central government programs, including the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana, MGNREGA, Anganwadi centers, water provision, and rural electrification, have been implemented in this area throughout the years.
This is Assam’s third big eviction effort in a month. The operation at Nagoan’s Batadrava on December 19 was hailed as one of the largest in the region, with over 5,000 alleged encroachers being removed. It was followed on December 26 by another effort to remove 400 bighas in Barpeta.
Since taking office in May 2021, the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led regime has carried out eviction drives in several areas of the state.
Despite opposition criticism, Sarma told the Assembly on December 21 that eviction campaigns to clear government and forest areas in Assam will continue as long as the BJP was in power.
(with PTI inputs)
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