Assam's drive to evict 'illegal settlers' to continue despite killings and Opposition's anger

Two persons died and several others including policemen were injured at Dholpur village in Gorukhuti area in central Assam's Darrang district
Last Updated 25 September 2021, 14:28 IST

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday said the drive to evict "illegal settlers" in government land would continue even as the Opposition parties stepped up demand to halt such a drive in view of killings of two persons in police firing on Thursday.

"The drive will continue. The government will look into the problems of the poor and landless people but we can not allow one person to occupy 100 bigha, 200 bigha government land. We will provide 6 bigha land to the genuine landless people as per the criteria of our land use policy but we can not allow people to occupy large tract of government land," Sarma told reporters in Guwahati when asked about the demand by opposition parties to halt the eviction drive.

Two persons died and several others including policemen were injured at Dholpur village in Gorukhuti area in central Assam's Darrang district, about 70-kms from here after police opened fire at protesters who allegedly clashed to stop the eviction drive. Videos shared on social media showed policemen firing at protesters while a photographer hired by the district administration stomped on a bullet-hit agitator. The photographer was arrested after the incident invited a lot of criticism.

The eviction was carried out as part of BJP-led government's promise to evict "illegal settlers" from government land, which would be utilised for an agriculture project. The government plans to provide employment to nearly 5,000 youths belonging to "indigenous" communities in the project. The BJP-led government claims that "illegal settlers" belonging to Bengali-speaking Muslims are occupying government land whereas the "indigenous communities" were becoming landless in their state.

Over 800 families vacated their land in the area on Monday after a team of police and district administration personnel threatened to evict them.

As the protest continued on Saturday, Darrang district administration and the state government officials continued work to clear the land for the agriculture land.

The CM's announcement came when Opposition parties demanded that the eviction drive be stopped and the victims should be provided alternative plot before the eviction drive. A day after Congress staged a protest in Darrang, six MLAs of Badruddin Ajmal's AIUDF met Governor Jagdish Mukhi demanding that the drive be stopped till the alternative land is allotted.

Conspiracy theory

Chief Minister Sarma claimed that the government got intelligence inputs that suggested that "a section of people" collected Rs. 28 lakh from those people in the past three months with a promise to convince the government to halt the eviction drive. "When they could not resist the eviction, they mobilised people and created the havoc on Thursday. Only 60 families were evicted on Thursday but from where 10,000 came to oppose the drive?" he said.

CM said the inputs said that people from Popular Front of India, an Islamic organisation also visited the area in the name of providing food to the evicted persons. "The government will conduct inquiry into all these and a lot of explosive details will come out," he told reporters in Guwahati.

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(Published 25 September 2021, 13:58 IST)

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