Congress leader writes to NHRC over land protests in Assam's

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Tinsukia, Nagaon Guwahati, Jan 11 (PTI) Congress leader Debabrata Saikia wrote to the National Human Rights Commission on Monday, alleging gross injustice to a section of people of the ST and OBC communities in Tinsukia and Nagaon districts of Assam due to violation of their land rights by the state government.

Saikia, leader of the Congress legislature party, alleged that the government was trying to evict around 1,300 ST and Other Backward Class (OBC) families who were settled in the Laika-Dadhia area of the Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary in Tinsukia district after the major earthquake of 1950.

Saikia asserted that the affected people have been staging a protest since December last year at a make-shift site near Tinsukia district deputy commissioner's office.

He claimed that three of them, including a pregnant woman, died as they were unable to bear the chill of winter, while many others are suffering from fever.

Citing a report by the Tinsukia deputy commissioner's office, he said that it proves 'that the affected families have been living in Laika-Dadhia since the 1950s and before the area was notified as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Hence, their demands ought to be heeded by the Government of Assam and they should not be compelled to stage protests by braving the cold weather'.

He further stated that successive generations of the communities have been cultivating land as tenant farmers in Mikir Bamuni Grant area under the Samaguri revenue circle of Nagaon district since 1981.

'However, at the behest of the state government, the Nagaon district administration is handing over the land in question to a private solar power company. This has been done without any proper notification to the affected people and many of them were given only one day's notice to file their objections, if any,' Saikia added.

Quoting the Assam (Temporarily Settled Areas) Tenancy Act, 1971, which provides for bestowing of ownership rights on farmers who cultivate a specific plot of land for three years in succession, Saikia maintained that these people have been tilling the land in Mikir Bamuni Grant much longer than that.

'This sort of harassment and illegal deprivation of the fundamental land rights in both cases was a violation of basic human rights besides violating various provisions of Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989,' he alleged.

The Congress leader urged the NHRC to take suo motu cognisance of the matter and initiate urgent steps to ensure that the people of the ST and OBC communities are not deprived of their land and livelihood.

Meanwhile, Tinsukia wildlife division of the forest department on Monday said a meeting under the chairmanship of chief minister was convened on December 30 last year to discuss about relocation and rehabilitation of people of Laika and Dadhia villages which are inside the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

It was decided in the meeting that the villagers of Dadhia would be rehabilitated in Lakhimpur district and people of Laika in Tinsukia, the department said in a statement.

As decided in the meeting, the Assam government had on January 5 constituted a committee comprising the environment and forest minister, the revenue and disaster management minister, Lakhimpur MP, Chabua and Dhernaji MLAs, it said.

The principal secretary of the environment and forest department, principal chief conservator of forests and other senior officials are also members of the panel.

The committee would find a permanent solution within one month and will submit a working plan for rehabilitation of the villagers to the government, it said.

'Accordingly, the proposal to rehabilitate the Dadhia and Laika forest villages (sic) has been sent to the Government of Assam on January 8 for immediate in-principle approval,' the statement added. PTI ESB SOM BDC BDC