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Eviction drive leaves thousands homeless
KOKRAJHAR, NOV 15 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 16 Nov. 2010 12:11 AM IST
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Thousands of tribal people in Assam have been forced to live in the open following the state’s eviction of “illegal settlers” from their forest homes.
More than 1,200 families have been made homeless in a “massive eviction drive,” an NGO worker said.
“They are all … suffering from fever and cold,” Missionaries of Charity Sister Sylvia told ucanews.com on November 15 after visiting Kokrajhar district of the northeastern Indian state.
Assam Forest Department officials allegedly burnt two churches, eight primary schools and 400 houses and forced out 1,187 families from Lungsung area, during the October 30-31 eviction drive.
The affected include 30 Catholic and 15 Lutheran families, according to Father Benjamin, priest in charge of St. Xavier’s Church in Dotma, a parish under Bongaigaon diocese.
Sister Sylvia said she had gone to distribute medicines to the affected people. “We could not go to their houses. They came to a common open place to get the medicines,” she said.
Stephen Ekka, a member of an NGO working in the area, said he was part of a three-member team that visited the area from Nov. 4-7 and found the displaced being tortured and given “inhuman treatment.”
The tribal people, locally called “adivasi” (original settlers), had inhabited 57 villages in the forest land for more than 45 years.
In 1974, the state government evacuated them but promised to allot them land entitlements. When that promise did not materialize even after ten years, the people returned to their original settlements, Ekka explained.
They faced occasional harassment, threats, and atrocities, he said.
“We have approached various people for help. So far no relief has come,” he told ucanews.com today. “At the moment the people are living under trees or in temporary sheds,” he said.

 
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