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Nearly 100 families evicted from govt land in Assam, many call it 'anti-Muslim' drive

AAMSU advisor Ainuddin Ahmed said the targeted eviction of Muslims was part of BJP's polarisation politics
Last Updated : 10 June 2021, 13:31 IST
Last Updated : 10 June 2021, 13:31 IST
Last Updated : 10 June 2021, 13:31 IST
Last Updated : 10 June 2021, 13:31 IST

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Rashidul Hoque got less than 24 hours to shift his home from a government land he had been living on for years at Kaki in central Assam's Hojai district on June 5.

"It was not possible to shift my house at night as there is curfew due to the coronavirus pandemic. But even if there was no curfew, where would I go?" the 49-year-old farmer asked on Thursday.

At least 70 families were evicted by the district administration on June 6, following an order by the BJP-led state government to clear government land of encroachers. Nearly 500 Bengali-speaking Muslims were rendered homeless, leaving them with no option but to take shelter near a road.

A similar drive on May 17 at Jamugurihat in North Assam's Sonitpur district evicted 25 families, all belonging to the same community. The district administration officials said they had illegally occupied government land and did not vacate it despite several warnings in the past.

Clearing the forests and other government land from "encroachers" and alloting them to indigenous landless people is one of the promises of the BJP-led government, which won the mandate in Assam for the second consecutive term on May 2.

The eviction drive was intensified after the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led government took charge on May 10.

This move, amidst the ongoing pandemic, has left the organisations representing the minorities angry, with many calling it an "anti-Muslim drive" by the BJP government.

"Many of these people occupied government land after their houses were eroded by rivers. They are so poor that they can't buy another plot and did not get any compensation," Aminul Islam, general secretary of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the opposition party led by Badruddin Ajmal, told reporters. The AIUDF, which contested the Assembly elections in alliance with Congress and five other parties, won 16 of 126 Assembly seats.

"These people are suspected to be Bangaldeshis just because they are Bengali-speaking Muslims. If the government can prove that they are foreigners, they should be deported. If they are Indians, it is the responsibility of the democratically-elected government to rehabilitate them," he said.

All Assam Minorities Students' Union (AAMSU) adviser Ainuddin Ahmed said the targeted eviction of Muslims was part of the polarisation politics of BJP.

Although the Congress has not yet reacted strongly, party MP from Barpeta Abdul Khaleque wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court on June 6, seeking the court's intervention to stop the eviction amid the pandemic. "This immoral and inhuman action has put the families, including women and children, at the risk of getting infected with coronavirus as they have been rendered homeless," Khaleque said, while referring to the eviction at Kaki.

Defending the eviction drive, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said, "We can't allow people to occupy the land of our temples and forests. I can understand the problem on their side too. There is so much of population that there is dearth of living space. If this continues, then time will come when they will come to occupy the land of Kamakhya temple," he said.

"Instead, all those, including the AAMSU and AIUDF, who are demanding that these people should be rehabilitated, should join hands and try to control population," Sarma said.

The CM said the government would allot land to more indigenous people soon. He said the vast areas of land being cleared from encroachers at Sipajhar in Darrang district would also be used for agricultural purpose by indigenous people.

Aman Wadud, a lawyer at the Gauhati High Court, said the eviction drives were politically motivated and targeted at Muslims only. "In January this year, the government provided land pattas (documents) to 1.6 lakh indigenous landless people. But on the other hand , after getting re-elected, the BJP government is evicting landless Muslims out of their homes. This is grossly partisan and the discriminatory action of the government is in violation of Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution. This government is attacking the very foundational concepts of the Constitution," he said.

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Published 10 June 2021, 13:25 IST

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