Eviction continues on second day in Assam, Bengali-speaking Muslims most affected

A bulldozer demolishes houses in Assam. [File Photo]

Assam: The drive to evict inhabitants from nearly 1,900 hectares of ‘forest and revenue land’ in Assam’s Sonitpur district continued for the second day on Wednesday, with 12,000-odd people, who were allegedly staying there for decades, left in the lurch, a senior official told PTI.

He official said the drive started this morning at five places in Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary and nearby land.

“Today, we are carrying out the eviction exercise at Lathimari, Ganesh Tapu, Baghe Tapu, Gulirpar and Siali. So far it has been peaceful, and no untoward incident has been reported,” the official said.

With a huge posse of armed forces personnel, the Sonitpur district administration had on Tuesday started the exercise to clear the land in the wildlife sanctuary and nearby revenue villages on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra river in central Assam.

While most of the residents, predominantly Bengali-speaking Muslims, had left their houses after receiving notices in the last few weeks, some were in the process to vacate their premises when the eviction drive started, some of the affected families told the news agency.

Residents were seen loading their belongings in tractor trolleys at various places since morning even as bulldozers were deployed to demolish their houses.

One of the residents, Firoza Begum, said that the demolition drive was started suddenly by the administration without any intimation or notice.

The opposition Congress slammed the BJP-led government for the drive and said many of the affected families are entitled to have land rights according to the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Sonitpur Deputy Commissioner Deba Kumar Mishra told PTI on Tuesday that thousands of people “illegally occupied” the forest and nearby areas for decades and the administration has decided to clear “encroachment” on 1,892 hectares of land during the ongoing exercise till Thursday.

“Of this, 1,401 hectares of land falls under the sanctuary and the remaining is government land. In the forest, 1,758 families were living, comprising 6,965 people,” he said.

On the government land, 755 families were residing, comprising 4,645 people according to the latest survey, the official said.

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