Assam’s BJP government on Tuesday accused the previous Congress rule in the state of encouraging illegal settlers to encroach land near the Kaziranga National Park.
The state government’s accusations come after two people were killed and over a dozen injured in clashes during an eviction drive on Monday, as per high court directions.
Vehicular traffic at several national highways across Assam was affected on Tuesday due to a 12-hour blockade announced by All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) in protest against the deaths.
“Even after Gauhati high court ordered eviction from the area, the Congress government constructed roads, gave electricity connections and other facilities to the illegal settlers,” Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told journalists.
Incidentally, Sarma was part of the Congress’s previous two Tarun Gogoi-led governments. Differences with Gogoi led him to quitting the party and joining the BJP last year.
Sarma alleged that the Congress government went a step ahead and set up government schools and even a polling booth in the encroached Banderdubi area of the park instead of clearing the area.
“It shows how the Congress was encouraging encroachers. There was plan to create a kind of colony near Kaziranga,” the minister said.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, former chief minister Tarun Gogoi termed the eviction drive as inhuman and added that court order was passed on the basis of a wrong affidavit.
In October last year, the high court had ordered eviction of three villages — Deosursang, Banderdubi and Palkhowa — near the national park where hundreds of families have settled over the past decades.
Despite assurances from the state government of adequate compensation, many of the settlers, some of whom are believed to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, refused to leave their homes.
Forest officials say some of the illegal settlers also help poachers hunt Kaziranga’s most famous resident — the one-horned rhinocerous that is prized for its horn.