October 29, 2021 8:19:11 pm
Following the eviction drive in Darrang district’s Dhalur, which turned bloody leaving two civilians dead and several injured, the Assam government has now said that there is a need to ‘clean’ the Lumding Reserve Forest in Hojai district of alleged encroachers, but in an ‘amicable manner.’
At a press conference in Guwahati on Friday, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “After Gorukhuti (Dhalpur), we need to clean Lumding Reserve Forest and we are talking amicably about it.”
He added that he has been holding discussions with ‘minority leaders.’ “I have told them to explain to the people that if police go in and even if there is a small incident, then people in the world, particularly my Left friends, will exaggerate it,” Sarma said.
He added that the government had not minuted the discussions leading up to the eviction drive in Darrang but would do so in the Lumding case. “Gorkhuti (Dhalpur) was a consensus eviction. A few Popular Front of India (PFI) people came and created trouble. Otherwise, we had rounds of discussions prior to that,” he said.
He added that even the minority leaders had agreed that reserve forest should not be encroached. “We have learnt that a number of ginger farmers have cultivated and settled in an area inside the forest, and are backed by 3-4 big traders…about 150 families have left on their own already,” Sarma claimed, adding that the Gauhati High Court has passed an order for eviction.
After hearing a PIL filed by former MLA of Hojai assembly constituency Shiladitya Dev, the Gauhati High Court on September 14 had asked the government to file an action taken report with regard to the phase-wise eviction plan in the Lumding Reserve Forest submitted by the government. As per the order, the eviction is to be carried out between the months of October 2021 and February 2022. The state government had filed an affidavit saying that about 1.10 hectares of land under the Lumding Reserve Forest had been “encroached upon by unauthorised persons from various places.”
Lumding Reserve Forest, part of Dhansiri-Lumding Elephant Reserve, is considered an important wildlife habitat in Assam and stretches through Lanka and Lumding ranges of Nagaon South Forest division.
When asked about the Gorukhuti eviction, Sarma said it was “mostly completed” save for a few houses. “We are counselling the concerned people to leave on their own, without getting the police involved,” he said.
The eviction drive in Dhalpur — done to free up land for an agriculture project to be carried out by “indigenous” local youths — had turned violent after clashes broke out between the police and protesters. A horrifying video showed a protester armed with a lathi being shot dead by a policeman, then jumped on and stomped on by a civilian.
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