October 10, 2021

Assam Evictions: Inhuman, Unconstitutional & Communal

ON September 29, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat visited the eviction affected villages in Darrang district of Assam along with a delegation comprising Suprakash Talukdar, CPI(M) Central Committee member, MLA Monoranjan Talukdar, secretariat member Ajit and other state leaders. On their return, the delegation tried to meet the chief minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma to present to him their findings. Since he was not available at the time, Brinda Karat wrote a letter to him. Below we publish the text of the letter.

We went to Dhalpur 1, 2 and 3 and met scores of evicted people. What we saw was horrifying. It seems that the constitution and legal framework is suspended in this area of Assam. I highlight some of the issues:

1. There are around 1000 families of poor peasants who have been tilling the land for the last fifty years or so who have been evicted with the help of an armed police force. Because of their hard work, they made the land cultivable and were earning a living through production of vegetables, paddy and a variety of crops. They have all the papers required to show their occupation and in some cases ownership of the land. I myself saw many such documents in the public hearing we held. Even if the claim of the government that this is encroached land is taken at face value, the government has not conducted any survey to verify or reject the claims. Moreover, it is shocking that less than 12 hours notice was given for the eviction. This entire process is totally illegal and inhuman.

2. No rehabilitation plan has been made nor has any land been offered. Since September 23, no government officials have visited the people. On the contrary today we saw several squads of armed police through the area which is nothing but intimidation. We also saw government deployed tractors ploughing the land and sowing the land. Again without settling the claims the government is taking illegal measures to grab the land.

3. On September 23, the role of the administration and police was worse than an occupying force. We were told that people begged for more time, women and children were terrified by the huge force, but no time was given and their modest homes were razed to the ground destroying whatever meagre belongings they had. The police fired directly on the people killing two. We met the families of the two victims and many of those injured. Worse, it is a shame on the police present there that they remained by-standers when the most hateful and barbaric attack took place by a photographer, employed by the administration, who repeatedly jumped on the prone body of a victim. It is indeed unprecedented that not a single police personnel has been held responsible for conniving with such an atrocity.

4. The plight of the displaced is worse than prisoners of war. Not a single paisa has been given for rehabilitation. We were told by women and children, many of them weeping with suffering, there was no water, no latrines, no shelters, no food, no medical facilities. Children are being forced to drink the dirty river water. Every family has sick children and women. It is a nightmarish situation caused by your government. We found that although schools have reopened nearby, scores of these displaced children are unable to go to school. We also found that all roads to the area have been blocked by the administration so it is very difficult even to get medical aid.

5. We found that four masjids have been broken, at least one of them burnt and several graveyards have been desecrated and destroyed. Even a madrasa where scores of children studied has been broken.

6. The declaration of the government that this land is to be turned into a farm employing “indigenous” people, is extremely puzzling. The area is already a farming area serving the need of not only local populations but also Guwahati vegetable markets. There is sufficient land in the area which the government can develop into state farms without evictions. Why is the government not taking this logical step?

7. Unfortunately and regretfully we found that the only reason for this, lies in a narrow political agenda of stripping minority communities of their rights, even though the government itself knows that they are citizens of India. In other words, in this area of Assam, citizens of India are deprived of their rights only because they are Muslims.

8. The situation is a clear violation of human rights. It is an attack on the constitution, on laws regarding eviction and resettlement and rehabilitation. We request you to (1) immediately end all evictions and forcible capture of the land without a proper survey and verification. Till such time, the families should be allowed to return to their lands (2) Compensation should be paid to families of those killed and injured. Compensation should be paid to all who have lost their belongings and livelihood (3) Immediate relief including food, water, temporary latrines, shelters must be provided to those evicted (4) action to be taken against the police personnel involved with the killings and also connivance with the barbaric actions of the photographer.