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Multiple eviction drives conducted in the char areas of Assam for expansion of the Orang National Park and Tiger Reserve and creation of animal corridors

Reported by

East Street Journal Asia

Legal Review by

Anmol Gupta

Edited by

Radhika Chatterjee

Updated by

Published on

June 28, 2023

June 30, 2023

Edited on

June 28, 2023

State

Assam

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

People Affected by Conflict

Households Affected by Conflict

800

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

5261

ha

Starting Year

2023

Location of Conflict

Nabur char, Kaurakaki char, Sardar char, Kasem char, Homur char, Biskuti char, Thengbhanga char, Pansu char, Tengagarah char, Muslim char, Sadutiilla char, Sitalmari char and Singari char

Sonitpur and Darrang

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Forest Administration (Other than Protected Areas)

National Park

Land Conflict Summary

In June 2023, the district administration and state forest department, led by thousands of police personnel, on instructions from the State Government, carried out almost a week-long eviction drive in the Orang National Park and Tiger Reserve (ONPTR) to vacate the char (riverine sandbars) areas in the Sonitpur and Darrang districts of Assam.

The evictions were carried out for the expansion of ONPTR and creation of a traditional path or corridor for wild animals from Kaziranga National Park to Orang National Park via the Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary of the state. The total area of ONPTR was expanded to 279.14 square kilometre via a gazette notification issued in 2022.

As per state authorities, around 3000 families are likely to be affected by the eviction drive in both the districts. But according to civil society organisations this number might be much higher.

A total area of 200.32 sq km under Dhekiajuli and Ghelamara Revenue circle in Sonitpur district and under Dalgaon revenue circle in the Darrang district was declared as being added to the ONPTR.

A day before the eviction drive took place, LCW had a chance to speak with Asif Nazar, the MLA from Laharighat (Morigaon district). He said, "Years back, after it was declared a national park and also because of the floods, people settled in the char (riverine sandbars) areas to the south of ONPTR. He also added that over 150 revenue villages got eroded because of continuous flood erosion, as a result of which the people had to settle in these places."

According to 2020-21 report of the Parliamentary Committee on water resources, Assam loses around an average of 8000 hectares of land annually to erosion, especially in places that lie along the Brahmaputra river.

Many opposition parties and social organizations have voiced criticism of the exercise and expressed concerns towards the loss of housing and livelihood for a segment of people described as marginalized and poor. Most of those affected till now, include Muslims, tribals, and Ahoms communities.

Chandra Bhanu, an affected community member belonging to Homur Char, said, “My family used to cultivate around seven bighas of land and we had enough to feed ourselves through our own produce. I could feed my children three meals on time. But now I don’t know what will happen. Without anything left, I may have to go without food in the coming days".

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner of Darrang, Munindra Nath Ngatey said that those who have been evicted will be provided alternate land in Morigaon and will also be offered employment opportunities.

Darrang DFO Pradipta Baruah said that the landless people should submit an appeal to their respective deputy commissioner seeking land to settle down as per the state laws.

Fact Sheet

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for rehabilitation

Demand for better access to common land/resources

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest

What was the action taken by the police?

How many people did the police detain or arrest?

What is the current status of the detained/accused persons?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

If any arrests took place, were the accused persons produced before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest?

If the accused was not produced before a magistrate within 24 hours, or not produced at all, what were the reasons?

Legislation under which the accused was charged

Was the accused person informed of their right to legal representation? Did the accused person have access to legal aid?

In cases where the accused person approached the court for bail, was bail granted?

Why was bail granted or rejected? If granted, what were the bail conditions and quantum of bail?

Were there any other notable irregularities that took place, or other significant details?

Details of sources (names of accused, names and numbers of any lawyers, names of any police officers contacted)

Status of Project

Original Project Deadline

Whether the Project has been Delayed

Significance of Land to Land Owners/Users

Agricultural land, Water bodies, Residential area

Whether the project was stalled due to land conflict

Source/Reference

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?

Legal Data

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Indian Forest Act, 1927
Section 26 [Acts prohibited in forest to include trespass] Section 72 [State government may invest any forest office with the power to hold inquiry into forest offences]
Sudama Singh v. Deepak Mohan Spolia (C.A. No(s). 21806-21807/2017, Supreme Court)
The High Court in the case had directed that before any eviction, the relevant authority must identify evictees eligible for relocation and rehabilitation. The state authorities must also ensure that basic civic liberties are ensured at the site of relocation. The Supreme Court confirmed this decision and stated that the directions passed in the High Court judgment must be complied with precisely.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, A/HRC/RES/43/14, dated July 6, 2020
  1. 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.

    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.

  2. 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.

    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.

  3. 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.

    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.

  4. 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.

    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.

  5. 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.

    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.

  6. 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.

    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.

  7. 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.

    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

No

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:

Non-consultation with stakeholders

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

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:

Multiple eviction drives from 28th May to 1st June led to the displacement of around 20000 people

Date of Violation

May 31, 2023

Location of Violation

Orang National Park and Tiger reserve

Additional Information

Nature of Protest

Referendum and other local consultations

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Mangaldoi forest division, Office of Deputy Commisisoner (Sonitpur), (Darrang) and (Morigaon)

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

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:

Information on the use of criminal law

What was the action taken by the police?

How many people did the police detain or arrest?

What is the current status of the detained/accused persons?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

If any arrests took place, were the accused persons produced before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest?

If the accused was not produced before a magistrate within 24 hours, or not produced at all, what were the reasons?

Legislation under which the accused was charged

Was the accused person informed of their right to legal representation? Did the accused person have access to legal aid?

In cases where the accused person approached the court for bail, was bail granted?

Why was bail granted or rejected? If granted, what were the bail conditions and quantum of bail?

Were there any other notable irregularities that took place, or other significant details?

Resources

Resources Related to Conflict

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

Images

Evicted people dismantle their settlement under forest department official's supervision

Image Credit:  

Assam Forest Department

Affected residents watch as the district administration evicts their shacks

Image Credit:  

Assam Forest Department

Video

In June 2023, the district administration and state forest department, led by thousands of police personnel, on instructions from the State Government, carried out almost a week-long eviction drive in the Orang National Park and Tiger Reserve (ONPTR) to vacate the char (riverine sandbars) areas in the Sonitpur and Darrang districts of Assam.

The evictions were carried out for the expansion of ONPTR and creation of a traditional path or corridor for wild animals from Kaziranga National Park to Orang National Park via the Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary of the state. The total area of ONPTR was expanded to 279.14 square kilometre via a gazette notification issued in 2022.

As per state authorities, around 3000 families are likely to be affected by the eviction drive in both the districts. But according to civil society organisations this number might be much higher.

A total area of 200.32 sq km under Dhekiajuli and Ghelamara Revenue circle in Sonitpur district and under Dalgaon revenue circle in the Darrang district was declared as being added to the ONPTR.

A day before the eviction drive took place, LCW had a chance to speak with Asif Nazar, the MLA from Laharighat (Morigaon district). He said, "Years back, after it was declared a national park and also because of the floods, people settled in the char (riverine sandbars) areas to the south of ONPTR. He also added that over 150 revenue villages got eroded because of continuous flood erosion, as a result of which the people had to settle in these places."

According to 2020-21 report of the Parliamentary Committee on water resources, Assam loses around an average of 8000 hectares of land annually to erosion, especially in places that lie along the Brahmaputra river.

Many opposition parties and social organizations have voiced criticism of the exercise and expressed concerns towards the loss of housing and livelihood for a segment of people described as marginalized and poor. Most of those affected till now, include Muslims, tribals, and Ahoms communities.

Chandra Bhanu, an affected community member belonging to Homur Char, said, “My family used to cultivate around seven bighas of land and we had enough to feed ourselves through our own produce. I could feed my children three meals on time. But now I don’t know what will happen. Without anything left, I may have to go without food in the coming days".

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner of Darrang, Munindra Nath Ngatey said that those who have been evicted will be provided alternate land in Morigaon and will also be offered employment opportunities.

Darrang DFO Pradipta Baruah said that the landless people should submit an appeal to their respective deputy commissioner seeking land to settle down as per the state laws.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for rehabilitation

Demand for better access to common land/resources

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-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

Indian Forest Act, 1927
Section 26 [Acts prohibited in forest to include trespass] Section 72 [State government may invest any forest office with the power to hold inquiry into forest offences]
Sudama Singh v. Deepak Mohan Spolia (C.A. No(s). 21806-21807/2017, Supreme Court)
The High Court in the case had directed that before any eviction, the relevant authority must identify evictees eligible for relocation and rehabilitation. The state authorities must also ensure that basic civic liberties are ensured at the site of relocation. The Supreme Court confirmed this decision and stated that the directions passed in the High Court judgment must be complied with precisely.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, A/HRC/RES/43/14, dated July 6, 2020
  1. 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.

    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.

  2. 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.

    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.

  3. 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.

    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.

  4. 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.

    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.

  5. 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.

    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.

  6. 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.

    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.

  7. 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.

    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

No

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:

Non-consultation with stakeholders

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

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:

Multiple eviction drives from 28th May to 1st June led to the displacement of around 20000 people

Date of Violation

May 31, 2023

Location of Violation

Orang National Park and Tiger reserve

Nature of Protest

Referendum and other local consultations

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Mangaldoi forest division, Office of Deputy Commisisoner (Sonitpur), (Darrang) and (Morigaon)

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Jonti Deka, Additional District Collector stated "The district administration has started the process of listing the data collected from all the affected people entitled for rehabilitation and resettlement."

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:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
Evicted people dismantle their settlement under forest department official's supervision

Evicted people dismantle their settlement under forest department official's supervision

Image Credit:  

Assam Forest Department

Evicted people dismantle their settlement under forest department official's supervision

Affected residents watch as the district administration evicts their shacks

Image Credit:  

Assam Forest Department

Documented By

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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Edited By

Text LinkLand Conflict Watch

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