The government of Assam has told the Gauhati High Court that the evicted people of Dhalpur in Darrang district were not victims of displacement due to floods or erosion. The government said that they were encroachers, against what was being portrayed, and they did not have the records to substantiate the claims.
The government said that the “encroachers” were legally evicted as per existing provisions of Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, 1886.
Following the violence after the eviction drive in Dhalpur on September 23, where two civilians including a 12 year old died and 18 others including 8 policemen were left injured, leader of opposition, Debabrata Saikia petitioned the High Court claiming those evicted were from marginalized communities who had migrated to escape floods and erosion.
The High Court had directed the government to file an affidavit by November 3. Kamaljeet Sarma, circle officer of Sipajhar revenue circle, in his affidavit said, “The claim that the occupants of Dhalpur Char and their ancestor were forced to migrate from their respective original place of residence due to devastating floods and land erosion is not true as this is not found in revenue records”.
The government in the affidavit said that victims of erosion or flooding who become landless have to report it to local revenue authority, which will certify them and maintain records of their claims. However, the evicted occupants of Dhalpur had not produced any such certificates from their previous place of residence.
The affidavit said, “The evicted occupants of Dhalpur area have migrated to these areas from different parts of the state and since the land in this area is fertile, they gradually occupied and grabbed the large fertile areas. In the garb of being landless, some individuals have also become land grabbers”. The affidavit also mentioned that rehabilitation policy for erosion affected families was made in 2020 but it did not cover displacement from government land.
The eviction drive was carried out to make way for composite community farming scheme called Gorukhuti Project. The first day of eviction on September 20 saw no violence, but, on the second day, on, September 23, violent clashes erupted.
The affidavit also rebuffed claims that eviction notice was served hours before the drive and reiterated police firing was used as a last resort after the eviction party was attacked with stones, sticks and machetes. The police used mild baton charge, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, before finally resorting to “controlled firing” in which two civilians were killed and others including policemen were injured.
The affidavit, ruling out obligation to pay any compensation, said, “The matter is related to encroachment and eviction only and is not at all related to acquisition of land. Therefore, the question of resettlement, rehabilitation and compensation etc. as per the Land Acquisition Act, is irrelevant.” Basic facilities like plastic sheets to build tents, tube wells, toilets and mobile medical team have been provided on humanitarian grounds and an area of around 1000 ‘bighas’ has been identified to relocate the evicted people, it added.
The Assam government has already ordered judicial inquiry into the violence. A shocking video of a photographer stomping on the dead remains of a victim had gone viral. The photographer has been arrested, along with three other residents who were accused of instigating violence.
The High Court has fixed December 14 for the next hearing on the matter.