Ready to relocate evicted families if citizenship proved: Assam govt to HC

The evicted families of Dhalpur villages in Gorukuti will not, however, be paid any compensation as they are "encroachers", the government said in an affidavit to Gauhati High Court in response to a PIL filed by the Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia.

The Assam government said it has earmarked about 134 hectare for relocating the evicted families of Gorukhuti in Darrang district provided they are valid citizens besides a set of other requirements.

The evicted families of Dhalpur villages in Gorukuti will not, however, be paid any compensation as they are “encroachers”, the government said in an affidavit to Gauhati High Court in response to a PIL filed by the Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia.

“An area of about 1,000 bighas (about 134 hectares) of land in the southern part of No 1 & No 3 Dhalpur village has been earmarked for relocating the evicted persons subject to verification of the status of erosion affected and landless status in their respective original places and districts, citizenship and existing rehabilitation policy of the state,” the affidavit by the government said.

Sipajhar Revenue Circle Officer Kamaljeet Sarma, representing the Assam government, said in the affidavit that the occupants of the areas were encroachers and they were “liable to be evicted at any time” as per rules framed under Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, 1886.

“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 Land Acquisition Act is irrelevant,” he added.

Besides Saikia’s case, the Gauhati High Court had itself registered a suo motu PIL after the violent eviction drive at Sipajhar and both the matters were clubbed together.

The Gauhati High Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Kakheto Sema, heard the matter on Wednesday and granted one week’s time to the state government for filing a detailed counter affidavit besides fixing December 14 for the next hearing.

The Court also noted the state government’s assurance that as of now for the remaining alleged encroachers no coercive measure is being adopted as efforts are being made to convince them to move to the demarcated area on their own.

“All the same, as and when such measures are adopted, the petitioner would be at liberty to move an application before this Court,” the order said.

“NRC is not published and the state is doubting the correctness of NRC drive. How does it then rely on the same NRC to exclude people?” Saikia’s counsel Tallah Abdul Rahman told PTI when asked.

There is a process to detain foreigners, he said adding “You cannot just evict people from their homes on suspicion of being foreigners and later make their rehabilitation contingent on proof of citizenship”.

According to reports, around 1,200-1,400 houses were razed to the ground on September 20 and September 23 at Dhalpur I, II and III villages in Gorukhuti, leaving over 7,000 people homeless. Village markets, mosques, kabarstans, madrassas and maktubs were also bulldozed.

The eviction drive had passed off peacefully on the first day but met stiff resistance by local people on the second instance and also left two dead in a police firing on September 23. Among the dead was a 12-year-old boy who had got his first identity proof, an Aadhaar card, before he was shot dead. Over 20 people were injured, including policemen.

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