A month and half after Dhalpur violence, Assam evicts 562 families from reserve
Nearly 1,000 security personnel were deployed for the fresh eviction drive. Elephants, excavators, and bulldozers were used to dismantle houses and other structures in the area
Over a month after two people were killed and 18 others injured during an eviction drive in Assam, 562 families were evicted from protected Lumding reserve forest in Hojai district on Monday for allegedly encroaching upon around 500-hectare land.
“Nearly half of the Lumding forest was encroached upon over the years by people from Barpeta, Nagaon, and Dhubri districts. We have come to know that they were encouraged by a person called Nazrul,” chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. “Since 2012, these encroachers have cut nearly half of trees in the forest and started ginger cultivation with an annual turnover of ₹25 crore. Monday’s eviction went peacefully and is a successful one after Garukhuti (in Darrang district). Such drives will continue.”
Nearly 1,000 security personnel were deployed for the fresh eviction drive. Elephants, excavators, and bulldozers were used to dismantle houses and other structures in the area.
“...we were able to evict 562 families. There was no resistance or opposition as most families had already relocated. Eviction in other areas will continue on Tuesday,” said Hojai deputy commissioner Anupam Choudhury.
Nearly 1,410 hectares of the reserve forest have been allegedly encroached upon and the government is planning to evict the squatters in a phased manner. “The eviction is taking place as per a Gauhati high court order to remove illegal squatters from the reserve forest,” said Hojai police superintendent Barun Purkayastha.
A 12-year-old boy was among two people killed during the eviction drive at Dhalpur in Darrang district on September 23 to evict families settled for decades on government land. The eviction drive was carried out to make way for a composite community farming scheme. On September 20, 788 families and 48 shops were removed in the first phase of the drive. The two were killed during the second phase of the drive.
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Sheikh Farid, the 12-year-old, was on his way back home from the local post office after collecting his Aadhaar card. He was caught in the violence that broke out during the drive.
Visuals showing government photographer Bijay Shankar Baniya repeatedly jumping and kicking the apparently lifeless body of Mainul Haque, the other person killed in September, provoked outrage.
The government has ordered a judicial inquiry on the violent eviction drive.
Opposition leader Debabrata Sakia moved the high court over the use of excessive force. The government has maintained the evicted families were encroachers. The families have insisted they were forced to relocate earlier because of floods and erosion.