Assam to relocate all 2,051 families evicted last year to another place in same district

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News Desk

The Assam government is planning to relocate 2,051 families, which were displaced during the Dholpur eviction drive in Darrang district last year, to another area in the same district, officials said.

In September 2021, the eviction drive in Dholpur, where primarily Bengali-speaking Muslims lived, was carried out to remove “illegal encroachers” to free up government land for “landless indigenous communities” for an agricultural project at Garukhuti area. Two people, including a 12-year-old, were killed when violence broke out during the eviction drive.

According to minutes of an official meeting held on January 31, which was attended by local MLA, police and district administration officials as well as members of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU), the families will be shifted to Dalgaon in phases.

Minister Pijush Hazarika of the BJP, who chaired an earlier meeting with AAMSU on the rehabilitation, said the families would be moved soon. “The district administration will aid the process and it will likely begin this month itself,” Hazarika told the Indian Express.

“Families who are encroaching on government land of the Garukhuti project area will be shifted to the Dalgaon revenue circle. Out of which, 633 families will be shifted in the first phase and the others in subsequent phases,” said the minutes of the meeting, where Dalgaon MLA Mazibur Rajman was present. The legislator said he would extend full cooperation.

The minutes said that in the first phase of the relocation process, 423 families living in Niz-Salmara and Dholpur-1 areas will be shifted, while 210 families who have already left Garukhuti will be rehabilitated immediately afterwards. It also stated that suitable land under the Dalgaon revenue circle would be identified by a committee formed with the circle officer as the coordinator. The Darrang deputy commissioner said that strict action would be taken if any person tried to “jeopardise the entire process”.

Rejaul Karim Sarkar, president of AAMSU, said the organisation was “not against eviction but wanted proper rehabilitation for those affected by it”.

Speaking to the Indian Express, Sarkar said the discussions were at the “primary stage”. “We have demanded rehabilitation with compensation, and that all basic needs be met,” he said, adding that AAMSU had met the government officials four times since January to discuss the rehabilitation process. “The first meeting was chaired by Cabinet Minister Pijush Hazarika. MLA Padma Hazarika, who is the chairman of the Garukhuti project, was also present,” he said.

Hazarika said that “eviction was unavoidable. So these arrangements were made”. “The new land they are being shifted to is also government land, but since it’s been officially given to them, they will not be moved from there,” he said.

Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia criticised the government, saying the decision was an “afterthought”. “First, they called these poor people ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘Bangladeshis’. Later, the case went to court, and it put them in an awkward position and made them look bad. So as an afterthought, they have decided to shift them to another area, which happens to fall under a different constituency,” he said.

The Gauhati High Court is hearing a case on the Dholpur evictions based on a public-interest petition filed by Saikia. Saikia argues that the evicted families are landless minority people who had migrated from other districts due to flood and erosion and that they should be rehabilitated.

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