Assam Government Evicts over 500 Tribal Families for 'Encroachment' in Lumding Forest

Reported by

East Street Journal Asia

Legal Data by

Anmol Gupta, Mukta Joshi

Edited by

Moushumi Sharma

Updated by

Published on

March 13, 2022

March 13, 2022

Updated on

March 13, 2022

Location of Conflict

Lumding

Nakhuti , Kamarpani, Bhetnala, Paglabasti, Hajibasti, Langsipai

Hojai

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Forest Administration (Other than Protected Areas)

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

1410

ha

Starting Year

2021

State

Assam

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

In its latest bid to free forests from encroachments, the Assam government carried out multiple eviction drives in several locations of the Lumding reserve forest in Hojai district. 

On November 7 and 8, 2021, at least 145 Garo and Chakma tribal families were evicted by the forest department. These included 55 Garo families in Paglabasti, 60 Garo and Chakma families in Hajibasti and 30 Garo families in the Langsipai area. In addition, 200 Muslim families living in Kamarpani and 170 families in Bhetnala were also evicted from the reserve forest.

The government started the eviction drive on September 30, 2021, under the directions of the Gauhati High Court. Thousands of security personnel, including Assam Police, Central Reserve Police Force and the paramilitary, were deployed to prevent any untoward incident. 

On November 11, the Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre (IRAC) moved the National Human Rights Commission seeking immediate intervention against the gross ‘human rights violations’ of the tribespeople without rehabilitation and resettlement, terming it ‘illegal’. IRAC also asked the state to pay a compensation of INR 10 lakh and issue land _pattas _(titles) to each of the evicted families. Representatives from the Muslim, Garo and Chakma communities submitted separate memorandums to the prime minister and the home minister indicting threat and repression.

The Lumding reserve forest, which also serves as an elephant corridor, covers an area of 22,403 hectares, of which 1,410 hectares were allegedly under ‘encroachment’. The forest department reportedly used elephants, excavators and tractors to destroy all establishments. According to officials, over 550 huts, along with other temporary structures, were demolished during the eviction. The authorities stated that as many as 1,000 people voluntarily left their homes.

According to local media reports, the Chakma families were provided temporary settlements in Deka Gaon. Suhas Chakma, founder of the Chakma Development Foundation of India, said that over 110 Chakma families have been illegally evicted from the Lumding Circle since November 8 despite the Chakmas inhabiting the area for more than 40 years.

On November 9, the All Assam Minority Students’ Union staged a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, alleging targeted harassment of the Muslim communities in Assam. Meanwhile, state Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and the Hojai Police denied claims that land brokers were responsible for all the encroachment. The police subsequently detained a few land brokers for settling many families in the Lumding Reserve Forest in return for cash.

One of the evictees told the media that his family has been living in the area for more than 20 years and demanded the authorities to resettle them to a suitable place and provide some land. The headman of Langsipai Garo village told a local news channel that the people of his village did not want to vacate the land as they had nowhere else to go. Another person informed that the authorities notified them three days before the eviction instead of the procedural 15 days. The evictees clarified that they were assigned temporary rehabilitation in the Baghtila area as directed by the police and Circle officer; however, they claimed that the land was unsuitable as it did not have basic amenities. About 204 families were relocated to a temporary relief camp in a grazing reserve in Changmaji village, which is a recently harvested rice field with sharp stubbles, without access to safe drinking water or toilets.

“No sleep, no water, no treatment. The government should either kill us or save us,” a woman told the media as her 10-year-old child slept on the ground, looking visibly sick.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for rehabilitation

Demand for legal recognition of land rights

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for land titles for the landless and displaced

Region Classification

Urban and Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
Section 2(a) [Community Forest Resource defined to be customary forestland to which community has traditional access] Section 3 [Forest rights of forest-dwelling tribes to include right of ownership, access to collect and use minor forest produce that has been traditionally collected within village boundaries. Such rights also include right to in situ rehabilitation, including alternative land, if traditional forest-dwelling tribes have been illegally evicted or displaced from forestland] Section 4(5) [Forest-dwelling tribes may not be evicted from occupied forestland before registration and verification process is complete]
Indian Forest Act, 1927
Section 72 [State government may invest any forest office with the power to hold inquiry into forest offences]
Assam Forest Regulation, 1891
Section (3)(1)(g) [Wrongful dispossession of a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe from his land or interference with the enjoyment of his rights over any land will constitute an offence under the Act and is liable for punishment]
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
Section (3)(1)(g) [Wrongful dispossession of a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe from his land or interference with the enjoyment of his rights over any land will constitute an offence under the Act and is liable for punishment]
Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972
Section 36A [Empowers the state to declare areas that link protected areas with each other, such as elephant corridors, as conservation reserves]
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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Forced evictions/dispossession of land

Non-rehabilitation of displaced people

Non-implementation/violation of FRA

Lack of legal protection over land rights

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Yes

Name of the adjudicatory body

National Human Rights Commission

Name(s) of the Court(s)

The Gauhati High Court

Case Number

PIL 37/2021

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Displacement

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

No

Reported Details of the Violation:

At least 145 Garo and Chakma tribal families were evicted from the Lumding reserve forest without rehabilitation and resettlement. Another 200 evictees from these minority communities have alleged human rights violations after they were resettled in temporary camps following the eviction without basic amenities and in unhygienic conditions.

Date of Violation

November 7, 2021

Location of Violation

Lumding Reserve Forest Area

Nature of Protest

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Protests/marches

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Hojai district administration, Hojai Deputy Commissioner

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

LCW called up Hojai Deputy Commissioner's office asking for his statement concerning the status of rehabilitation and resettlement of the evictees. He refused to comment over the phone.

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

All Assam Minorities Students’ Union, Chakma Development Foundation of India

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

Image Credit:  

Documented By

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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Edited By

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