Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Eviction drive to clear govt land in Sonitpur completed

A massive eviction drive to clear 330 acres of government land in Assam’s Sonitpur district was carried out by the authorities amid heavy security on Saturday, a top official said.
The exercise was completed peacefully, the official said.
All the structures were demolished with excavators and other heavy machinery, while jute crops of the encroachers were spared, for the time being, he said.
A madrassa in the area was also demolished, though two mosques were not destroyed as the people pleaded for time and assured the authorities that they themselves will dismantle the mosques soon.
More than 30 excavators, heavy machinery, and a large number of workers were deployed for the drive that commenced at around 6 am to demolish houses in No 3 Chitalmari area in Barchalla on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra river.
Sonitpur deputy commissioner Deba Prasad Mishra, who oversaw the process, said, “The eviction drive was completed peacefully. The people had mostly vacated their premises with their belongings over the last few days. “Only the permanent structures were there, which we have demolished.”
Mishra said the encroachers, who were mostly engaged in agriculture, had requested the authorities to permit them to harvest their jute crops.
“They have been cutting jute over the last few days and we have allowed them another seven days’ time to harvest the standing crop under police supervision,” he said.
A 100 MW solar power plant is planned to be set up in the cleared area, which will be able to meet the entire energy demand of the district, the official said.
About 1,200 security personnel, including those of Assam Police and para-military forces, were deployed at the site, equipped with anti-riot gear.
According to government records, 299 families were living in the area, but more than 90 per cent of them have already left after receiving the notice around eight months back.
Some of the residents being evicted lamented that no rehabilitation has been provided to them by the government with many taking shelter in their relatives’ houses while for others, embankments have become their temporary residence.
“We have been living here for decades. We have no jobs and live off the fields here. We don’t know where we will go,” a woman said, gathering the last of her belongings as the excavators approached the structure that used to be her home.
Another man claimed that they had paid for the land and the government has now left them in the lurch.
“We had got houses under government schemes. We had electricity connection. How can we be encroachers?” he questioned angrily.
A district administration official said that patrolling in the area by security forces was on since August 31, and that prompted the people to vacate the land voluntarily.
“We could not carry out the eviction drive earlier due to various reasons. Now, most of the people have agreed that this is government land and it will be used for developmental work,” the official told PTI.
Locals said that most of the people had migrated to the area several decades ago from Nagaon and Morigaon districts on the southern bank of Brahmaputra following massive erosions.
When asked about the demography of the area, the district official said, “It is a mix of several communities. Most of the families are Bengali-speaking Muslims, followed by Bengali Hindus and Gorkhas.”
Ganesh Kumar Limbu, two-time BJP MLA of the area, claimed that most of the families who lived here have houses in other areas as well, and that is why they left without any protest.
Special Director General of Police (law and order) Gyanendra Pratap Singh visited the site on Thursday and reviewed the security arrangements.
The incumbent state government under Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has been engaging in eviction drives to clear government land after assuming power in May last year.
The first such major exercise at Gorukhuti in Darrang district had turned violent leading to the death of two persons and injury to 15 police personnel.
Subsequent eviction drives were carried out in different parts, including Hojai, Karbi Anglong, Cachar, and Karimganj.