One hundred twenty bighas of land belonging to an ancient Shiv mandir at Dhalpur village in Darrang district of Assam that had been encroached by Bangladesh-origin Muslims were cleared by the state authorities on Sunday.
Assam has launched an intensive drive to remove encroachments, mostly by Bangladesh-origin Muslims, from lands belonging to Hindu religious institutions like mandirs and xatras (Vaishnavite monasteries).
On Sunday (6 June), state authorities 120 bighas of land belonging to an ancient Shiv mandir at Dhalpur village near Sipajhar in Darrang district that had been encroached on by Bangladesh-origin Muslims.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had promised during the campaign for the Assembly elections to remove all encroachments on lands belonging to religious institutions and the government.
The state government had, in the past, too, removed hundreds of encroachers from government lands, including reserve forests.
A large number of illegal occupiers and squatters were removed from Kaziranga National Park a few years ago. It is no secret that almost all these squatters on government and other lands are illegal Muslim infiltrators from Bangladesh or their descendants.
According to state government sources, about 180 bighas of land belonging to the Shiv mandir at Sipajhar had been illegally occupied by Bangladesh-origin Muslims.
“We have removed these infiltrators from 120 bighas and will take up an eviction drive in the rest very soon,” said a district official.
Eviction drives were carried out here in the past, too, when Congress was in power.
But those eviction drives were half-hearted, and in the absence of continuous vigil, the encroachers used to sneak back and illegally occupy land belonging to the mandir in a short time.
This time, however, the eviction drive has been thorough, and even houses and other semi-permanent or permanent structures built by the encroachers have been demolished.
The encroachers have also been given stern warnings against attempting to return and forcibly occupy lands belonging to the mandir.
District officials said that the encroachers have been told they would be arrested under stringent laws like attempting to disturb communal harmony and rioting if they ever return.
Another eviction drive was carried out at Kakini near Lanka in the Muslim-majority Hojai district on Sunday.
Around 275 bighas of land inside a government-owned rubber plantation were cleared of encroachers (watch video ), once again Bangladesh-origin Muslims, who had built houses and started cultivating turmeric there.
The rubber plantation, run by state-sector Assam Plantation Crops Development Corporation, was set up in 1986. About 15 families of illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh had moved in there about twelve years ago and started cultivating turmeric after cutting down many rubber trees.
Hojai district officials used heavy earth-moving equipment to demolish the houses of encroachers and the turmeric crop.
State officials say that such eviction drives will become a regular feature from now on. “We are determined to free every inch of land under the illegal occupation of squatters. Data on such encroachments is being collected from all over the state,” said a senior revenue department official.
Chief Minister Sarma is taking a personal interest in these eviction drives. Tens of thousands of acres of land belonging to Hindu religious institutions, the state and central government, tea estates and others have been illegally and even forcibly occupied during successive Congress regimes in the state by mostly Bangladesh-origin Muslims.