Since it assumed power in Assam in 2016, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has carried out massive eviction drives across the state. Over the last four years, the government has launched eviction drives in at least 17 districts, leaving hundreds of people homeless. In October 2012, a PIL was filed by Mrinal Saikia, a BJP MLA, demanding the eviction of illegal immigrants from the Kaziranga National Park (KNP). Three years later, on October 9, 2015, the Gauhati High Court passed an order directing the state to take expeditious steps to evict the immigrants from the park. The court also ordered the government to inquire into reports of poaching in the park. What started as an eviction drive by the government in the fringe areas of the KNP in central Assams Kaliabor in September 2016 later expanded to Sipajhar, Dhubri, Amchang, Kuruwa, Mangaldai, Hojai, Mayong, Gogamukh, Jamugurihat and Barpeta, among several other places. The latest eviction drive by the state was undertaken in September 2019 in Mahmordiya _char _(riverine areas of the Brahmaputra are locally called char) under the Palashbari revenue circle, following several complaints by a local organisation. In its initial complaint, the Dakshin Kamrup Siyalmara Dugdha Samabay Committee, a cooperative body of dairy farmers in the state, alleged that over 20 families from a nearby char, known as Bhatkhowadiya, have encroached upon 900 bighas (144.45 hectares) of land in Mohmardiya char under the jurisdiction of the Palashbari police station in Kamrup (Metro) district. After repeated complaints, the circle officer ordered the laat mandal (a government-appointed body that maintains land records) to conduct an inquiry into the allegations. The mandal submitted its report to the circle officer on November 1, 2019. The report stated that 12 families have illegally settled in Mohmardiya and built bamboo huts. It further mentioned that around 400 bighas (64.2 hectares) of Professional Grazing Reserve (PGR) land (which fall under the jurisdiction of the revenue department) were under illegal cultivation by 'encroachers', who are Bengali-speaking Muslims. These individuals used to reside in different _char _areas before being forced to relocate in Mohmardiya due to erosion. Although the local people suspect they are Bangladeshi nationals, the state government has not yet branded them as such. People coming to India from Bangladesh before March 25, 1971, are considered Indian citizens. The evicted people claim their forefathers had entered India prior to 1971. Most of these settlers, however, don't own land and therefore, have no formal land rights. Based on the report of the mandal, the circle officer subsequently served eviction notices to the 12 families on November 11, asking them to vacate the land immediately. But the families refused and continued to live on the PGR land. A week later, on November 19, a team of officials from the Palashbari Revenue Circle, with the help of local police, carried out the eviction drive in Mohmardiya char. During the drive, they demolished more than 25 houses (some families had built more than one house) and destroyed crops in around 144.5 hectares of land. In a footage accessed by LCW, the evicted people said they have been living at the char for a decade, where they had settled after losing their lands to erosion in nearby Goroimari and Kelkeli chars. We have no option. We have no place to stay; we are homeless now, Rejina Khatun, an evicted woman, told a local reporter who covered the eviction. She and other evicted people asked the government to provide them immediate rehabilitation. The evicted people have now taken shelter in nearby Bhatkhowadiya char. The state government has, so far, not offered them any kind of shelter.
Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:
State Revenue & Disaster Management Department, State Environment and Forest Department
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Has the Conflict Ended?
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