Anti-encroachment drive: Badruddin Ajmal, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) president and Lok Sabha MP, wrote two identical but separate letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah urging them to direct the Assam government to stop the ongoing eviction drive across the state. He alleged that the eviciton drive was "selective and discriminatory" in nature, targeting a particular community.
This inhuman action: Ajmal
He informed Modi and Shah that the Assam government is carrying out eviction drives even in chilly winter, rendering thousands of poor people homeless and causing trouble to them.
"This inhuman action must be stopped immediately, at least in this shivering cold season on humanity grounds and from the perspective of human rights," he wrote on Tuesday.
The Assam government is carrying out the eviction drive without making any rehabilitation plan and providing alternative places to the affected poor families, consequently forcing them to live under the open sky, Ajmal alleged.
"People are being evicted from places where they had been living for decades. The most objectionable point is that the eviction drive is initiated in a selective and discriminatory manner targeting one community," he said.
The Assam government on Tuesday and Wednesday carried out an eviction drive to clear 450 hectares of forest land from around 500 families of alleged encroachers, mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims, in Lakhimpur district.
"Respected sir, I request you to direct Assam government to stop inhuman eviction at least in winter season, to provide land and financial help to the landless and homeless poor affected families without any discrimination before carrying out eviction and to stop selective manner and discriminatory policy in eviction drive," Ajmal said.
'AIUDF is not in favour of illegal encroachment': Ajmal
He, however, clarified that the AIUDF is not in favour of illegal encroachment on government land and it does not have any objection if illegal encroachers are evicted, whoever they are.
"But it is also an undeniable fact that Assam is the state where flood and erosion make thousands of people homeless and landless every year. They take shelter on government land because they do not have any other option.
"So, such poor affected families, who do not have any other place to live, must be rehabilitated after proper inquiry without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and religion because it is government's responsibility to provide home to homeless and land to landless people of the state," Ajmal said.
The Lakhimpur exercise is the third major eviction drive in Assam within a month. The one in Nagaon's Batadrava on December 19 has been billed as one of the largest in the region as it uprooted more than 5,000 alleged encroachers. It was followed by another exercise on December 26 to clear 400 bighas in Barpeta.
The Himanta Biswa Sarma-led dispensation has been carrying out eviction drives in different parts of the state since it assumed power in May 2021.
Setting aside opposition criticism, Sarma had on December 21 told the assembly that eviction drives to clear government and forest lands in Assam would continue as long as the BJP is in power.
70 bulldozers rolled out
Around 70 bulldozers, excavators and tractors have been pressed into action in Adhasona village, while 600 police and CRPF personnel stood guard along with 200 civil officials, the officer stated.
With just a few belongings in tow, Hasmat Alam (name changed on request), who witnessed his house being razed to the ground, claimed that they had been living in the area for 28 years.
"This year, the harvest was good. I grew brinjal, cabbage and cauliflower and sold some of the produce in the market. Around 70 per cent of the crop, however, got destroyed in the eviction," he said.
Authorities were seen using tractors and bulldozers to flatten the crops. Excavators also filled the ponds and fisheries with earth.
(With PTI input)
Also Read: Assam: Anti-encroachment drive continues for second day in Lakhimpur, leaving 299 families in lurch