December 20, 2023
As the Assam government evicts over 900 families from Silsako wetland, the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) bulldozes properties mostly of poor tribals, whereas the unauthorised big buildings and institutions belonging to the rich remain untouched.
The eviction led to clashes and protests, as #tribals living there for decades said they had been paying property taxes and electricity for many years. Moreover, the land in question has a history of tribal communities cultivating rice and paying land taxes since the 1970s.
Anwara Begum, 57, narrates the destruction of her house purchased in Silsako Wetland. "Built with our hard-earned money through daily wages," she says.
Authorities, unmoved, demolished homes with GMC holding numbers, sparking debates and protests.
As political landscape shifted, successive govt allocated wetlands to institutions & companies.
Untouched properties on land include those alloted to an entity owned by an MP, also a 17 storied building of an influential businessman, raising concerns about fairness & justice.
The current govt cited flood prevention and restoration of waterbody as the motive for eviction under the Water Bodies Act of 2008.
Yet, locals argue their long-term presence, tax payments, and legitimate services provided by the government contradicted this narrative.
he government even sanctioned funds for improvement and construction of roads at Silsako wetland. Moreover, 16 out of 17 institutions allotted by governments elected since 1991, also “encroachers” remain untouched.
Compensation efforts ensued, however, activists claimed that the compensation was inadequate and that the majority of the evictees remain uncompensated.
Amid legal battles & cries for justice, evicted families are struggling to pay house rents where they shifted after #forcedevictions. “We want our land back” said Rahman, an evictee.
Our contributing researcher @mhassanism
writes for @Article14live