Evicted families of Assam’s Dhalpur not illegal immigrants or land grabbers, says report

Published on Dec 24, 2021 08:34 PM IST

On September 23, 2 civilians were killed in clashes between evicted families and police and 18 other people including policemen were injured during the eviction drive. The state government had evicted the area to make way for an agricultural project for the local indigenous people.

Since most of the evicted families were Bengali-speaking Muslims, it was alleged that they are illegal immigrants who had forcibly occupied government land as well as land of indigenous people and also settled on grazing land. (PTI PHOTO.)
Since most of the evicted families were Bengali-speaking Muslims, it was alleged that they are illegal immigrants who had forcibly occupied government land as well as land of indigenous people and also settled on grazing land. (PTI PHOTO.)

Three months after a violent eviction drive at Dhalpur in Darrang district of Assam, an independent study report on the incident has claimed that the evicted families were not illegal immigrants or land grabbers as alleged by the state’s BJP-led government.

The study ‘Dhalpur-The Truth Behind’ by Guwahati-based Centre for Minority Studies, Research and Development (CMSRD) was carried out by 14 members who stayed in the area for 15 days and interacted with 517 of the 963 evicted families.

On September 23, 2 civilians were killed in clashes between evicted families and police and 18 other people including policemen were injured during the eviction drive. The state government had evicted the area to make way for an agricultural project for the local indigenous people.

Since most of the evicted families were Bengali-speaking Muslims, it was alleged that they are illegal immigrants who had forcibly occupied government land as well as land of indigenous people and also settled on grazing land.

The report by CMSRD however stated that of the 517 families surveyed 514 had their National Register of Citizens (NRC) legacy data preserved with them. Names of only 3 heads of families were found to be ‘doubtful voters’ (D-Voters).

The NRC was updated in Assam to weed out illegal immigrants (people who entered the state after March 1971 when Bangladesh came into being). Of the 32 million applicants, 1.9 million were excluded from the final list released in August 2019.

“Since all the surveyed families have legacy data prior to 1971 they can’t be termed as either suspected Bangladeshi or people of Bangladesh origin since Bangladesh came into existence on March 24, 1971,” said Zamser Ali, general secretary of CMSRD.

The survey found that of the 3094 people in 517 families names of 1998 were included in the final NRC and the rest were excluded. The survey mentions that while all families have legacy data prior to 1971; some families got excluded from NRC because of “ambiguity of NRC officials”.

The report also denied allegations of land grabbing by the evicted families. It stated that of the 517 families, 134 were living in inherited land, 34 families had occupied ‘abandoned land’ (low lying areas near the river), 62 families were landless and 129 families paid their land revenue for some time.

The allegation of grabbing grazing land was also denied by the report by mentioning that the villages of Dhalpur which had been evicted and nearby villages were not marked as protected grazing reserve (PGR) or village grazing reserve (VGR) in the census reports of 1971, 1991 and 2011.

“The narratives of BJP-RSS and its allied organisations is not only a distortion of facts about Dhalpur and its people, but a completely false and imaginary propaganda campaign,” the report stated.

The report stated that the evicted families of Dhalpur had migrated to the area over the past several decades from Darrang, Kamrup, Goalpara and Nagaon districts due to erosion of their villages because of floods.

It claimed that the evicted families who were residing in temporary shelters following the drive were not provided with basic amenities like food, drinking water and medicines.

Following the Dhalpur eviction, the Assam government ordered a judicial inquiry on the violent eviction drive. Leader of opposition in state assembly Debabrata Sakia filed a petition in Gauhati High Court alleging use of excessive force by the state agencies during the drive.

Last month, the Assam government in an affidavit filed in reply to the petition maintained that the evicted families were encroachers and refuted claims that they were victims of floods or erosion.

“It’s wrong to blame the BJP or RSS for the eviction drive. It was carried out by the government with permission from the court. If CMSRD has any issues they should approach the court,” said BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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