Three months after it removed settlers from forest land adjoining Kaziranga, Assam’s new government evicted over 200 families in Sipajhar in Darrang district Wednesday and cleared over 1,000 bighas government land from encroachers who had settled there for over two decades.
Unlike in Kaziranga, the Sipajhar eviction went peacefully. The site, however, is no less symbolic — Sipajhar is part of Mangaldoi Lok Sabha seat, from where the All Assam Students’ Union had launched its anti-infiltration movement of 1979-85. This was following a revision of electoral rolls, which had a large number of new names.
“We had served a notice to more than 200 families illegally staying in Fuhuratoli village of Sipajhar for many years. Today morning we carried out the eviction and removed 500 illegal structures that also included shops and sheds in a market the encroachers had set up,” Darrang deputy commissioner Ashok Kumar Barman said.
A section of the encroachers said they were genuine Indian citizens and alleged the BJP-led government was targeted them as Bangladeshi infiltrators because they were Muslims. The DC said the authorities had not looked into the citizenship aspect. “Encroachers are encroachers,” he said.
The BJP having promised to protect jaati, maati, bheti (nation, land, homestead) of the indigenous communities of Assam, the party-led government has evicted settlers from five places in the last three months — Kaziranga and Guwahati in September, Bardowa Satra in October, Mayong in November and Sipajhar now.
The Sipajhar DC said the 1,000 bighas cleared were marked in government records as professional grazing reserve. Earlier, residents of neighbouring villages used the land on payment of a nominal fee. “The encroachers had not only set up dwelling houses, but also a market with shops and sheds, in addition to cultivating the land as if it were their own,” Barman told The Indian Express.
He said there was no resistance in Sipajhar — two protesters had been killed in Kaziranga. In Sipajhar, many of the encroachers voluntarily dismantled the structures and moved with these to adjoining villages, the DC said.
Three independent groups — Prabajan Birodhi Mancha (PBM), Sangrami Satirtha Sanmilan and Dakshin Paschim Gowal Sanstha — meanwhile staged a dharna in Mangaldoi demanding eviction of encroachers from over 77,000 bighas government land in Sipajhar circle. The PBM is headed by Supreme Court lawyer Upamanyu Hazarika. who was engaged by the Supreme Court last year to carry out a spot investigation of encroachment by alleged Bangladeshi infiltrators in Assam.