A massive eviction drive was carried out on Tuesday to clear around 500 hectares of forest land at Pabho reserve forest in Assam’s Lakhimpur district.
The administration deployed heavy security in the area and were seen using excavators and tractors for the drive.
Meanwhile, several families, who encroached on the forest lands, had destroyed their houses and left the area.
The eviction drive is being carried out based on the instructions given by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
According to the administration, 507 families belonging to the Muslim community have been illegally living in the forest land.
An official of the Lakhimpur forest division said the families had filed a petition before the district authority, seeking land rights in the forest area under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
“We had challenged the petition as they do not belong to any tribal community. In September, the district authority finally rejected their petition and allowed us to initiate steps to free the forest land,” the officer added.
The Act recognizes the rights of the forest dwelling tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers to forest resources, on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other socio-cultural requirements.
The forest official added that most of the house owners live in different places. “They have either given their houses on rent or hired caretakers for them,” the officer said.
The official added that the families were served notices in September last year.
Lakhimpur, superintendent of police, Bedanta Madhab Rajkhowa said 600 personnel of state police and CRPF have been deployed for the exercise and a mock drill was conducted by the forces on Sunday, TOI reported.
“We are prepared to conduct the eviction drive in a smooth and peaceful manner as far as possible,” he added.
Nearly 3,000 hectares of government and forest lands have been cleared from encroachment in the state after the chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma-led BJP government took over in May, 2021.
The first and major eviction drive was conducted at Dholpur in Darrang district, around 55 km from Guwahati, in September 2021.