A Congress MP has slammed the “two-faced” drive by the BJP-led government to make Assam encroachment-free. He has also asked the Gauhati High Court to take note of the eviction drive that violates human rights amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Abdul Khaleque, who represents western Assam’s Barpeta constituency in the Lok Sabha, said the State government’s move to evict thousands of settlers from more than 77,000 bighas of State-owned land was “two-faced”.
This was in reference to 2.28 lakh periodic pattas (land deeds) and allotment certificates distributed among landless people belonging to the indigenous communities on more than 2.09 lakh bighas of government land during the tenure of Sarbananda Sonowal.
Local authorities and the police have, over a week, freed more than 400 bighas of government land of encroachers in Hojai, Karimganj and Darrang districts. More than 200 houses, mostly belonging to migrant Muslims, were uprooted.
“At a dire time of COVID-19 crisis, the government’s eviction in Sonitpur and Hojai is a violation of Articles 21 and 39 of the Indian Constitution. Encroachers should be evicted but not at a time of crisis,” Mr. Khaleque said, adding that the government should have served notices to the settlers and provided them with dwellings elsewhere.
In an appeal to the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court on June 7, the MP cited the court’s May 10 pandemic-related order that said: “It is also made clear that any decree for eviction/dispossession or demolition which was passed by any court, tribunal or authority during this period, shall remain in abeyance subject to any specific orders which may be passed in a given case.”
The All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) has also criticised the eviction drive.
“The State government has violated the High Court’s order that clearly states there would be no eviction drive during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Assam government should stop harassing the minority people under communal agenda,” the AAMSU said.
The Assam Cabinet on June 8 formed a committee for properly utilising the 77,000 bighas of land freed from encroachers. The committee is headed by BJP legislator Padma Hazarika.