Assam is essentially a river valley civilization. Going back into history, one finds Assam to be an ancient land that figured prominently in international trade even before the birth of Jesus Christ.
Since a time Mughal’s had eyes in our land for different purpose. The battle royal between the Mughal and the Ahoms were fought at Saraighat near Guwahati in 1671. Throughout the times of conflict, Mughals failed to attain a decisive victory over the lands of Assam because of the distance, harsh climatic conditions, and most importantly because of the will, courage and love towards the soil of the local residents and the emperors. The war heightened during reign of Aurangzeb, in which he miserably failed to attain victory, losing because of the valour and courage of one among the most celebrated military general of all times, Lachit Borphukan.
A violent outbreak between the police authorities of Darrang district and the locals of Gorukhuti village of Sipajhar Revenue Circle in Darrang district occurred during an eviction drive at Dholpur number 3 areas which led to violent protests by encroachers. As per visuals and reports, villagers of Dholpur area number 3 staged a protest against the police personnel followed by stone-pelting. This resulted in the police open firing in the air to disperse the crowd after there was reportedly, use of blunt weapons by the locals forcing police to use tear gas and rubber bullets.
Stones were also pelted by the protesters. At least two protestors were killed and twelve were injured in the incident. There are reports of a third person dying as per local accounts. Two policemen were also injured. The numbers are likely to rise as the situation still has not calmed down.
As per preliminary reports, one Saddam Hussain and one Shaikh Farid lost their lives in the police firing while at least 12 police officers were injured.
Giving a brief about the history, a huge eviction drive was taking place wherein atleast 800 families occupying 4,500 bighas of land were evicted.
The Sipajhar eviction site is a part of Assam Government’s plan, “Garukhuti Project” under which the land over 77,000 bighas will be used for afforestation and agriculture activities involving indigenous youth.
Shri Dilip Saikia MP of Mangoldoi Lok Sabha constituency said that “the indigenous people at many places have been facing economic and religious aggression from suspected illegal immigrants for many decades.” He added that the indigenous people have been forced to virtually abandon Dholpur and nearby places over the course of the last few decades.
“Certain elements are trying to paint a false picture and give the impression as if the government is targeting a particular community. But how did people belonging to the indigenous communities become extinct in – Dholpur? In February 1983, during the Assam Agitation, 11 Assamese youths were brutally massacred there by suspected Bangladeshis. In November 2017, an indigenous farmer, Ananda Das, was killed by suspected illegal immigrants while he was out grazing cattle,” Saikia said.
The violent outbreak at Gorukhuti Village in Sipajhar Revenue Circle of Darrang District raised many questions and many raised concerns on the lack of humanitarian approach in the government’s approach.
In a conversation with Darrang SP Sushanta Biswa Sarma, he said that “Presently, situation at Garukhuri, Dhalpur area under Sipajhar PS is normal. The Agricultural Project run by the Govt. of Assam at Dhalpur is running smoothly. On 23.09.2021 an eviction drive has been carried out by Darrang District Administration at Dhalpur area to evict illegal encroachers where 2 civilians died and 10 civilians injured during police action. In the incident, 8 police personnel also sustained injuries while the agitated encroachers attacked during the eviction process. As per the information, total 1418 houses (approx.) were evicted from Dhalpur area during eviction process where population estimated about 6604 (approx.) persons and total 4920 bighas (approx.) of Govt. land cleared.”
The Chief Minister of Assam on 24th September, 2021, addressed the press on the Sipajhar Eviction incident and said that the incident is unfortunate but one also has to consider the facts. “I have been saying since two months that we’ll compensate the landless who were evicted with 6 bigha land under the land policy of Assam”, said Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma.
He condemned the photographer’s act but said that this is just a part as many policemen were attacked as well. “You can’t just watch a three-minute video and decide what happened. Hence, I request Congress to sit down with me and watch the entire video”, he added.
“People were killed in 1983 as well as yesterday, so there has to be a third party involved. Few days ago, maximum eviction was completed peacefully. Only 60 households were left but suddenly where did 10,000 persons turn up from?” CM Sarma questioned. He also reacted to the Taliban rhetoric used against him but defended himself by saying that will he sit idle and watch encroachers take over Assam. “They encroached over Shiv Temple, tomorrow they’ll encroach over Kamakhya and am I supposed to do nothing?” he added. The eviction drive will continue. People who have come from Baghbor, Sarukhetri own land in their native place and hence, 6 bigha land will be given to only the landless.
The Assam Chief Minister spoke in a rather aggressive tone to the questions raised on the Sipajhar Eviction which witnessed a violent outbreak between those who were living there and the authorities who reached Gorukhuti village to carry out the eviction.
Speaking to the press, the Chief Minister said, “They are people who have come from Dholgaon, Baghbor and Sarukhetri. The other day, two Congress MLAs that paid me a visit, I asked them whether these certain persons are from your constituency and they said yes, they are.”
“I even said that these are from your constituency and I will allot them a land in your constituency. To this, they said nothing. These days encroachment is not the only issue, sponsored immigration is also an issue”, said CM Sarma. To this, he was asked as to who is responsible and he said, “The congress, they are the people who want to destroy Assam and the country.”
CM Sarma then went on to speak about the current trends of immigration. He spoke about the Borsola constituency, saying that most illegal settlers are now targeting Borsola and they originally come from Dhing and Rupohi. They have encroached the area near and around Gupteswar Temple.
“Earlier, the Chief Ministers did not say these things but if I don’t say these things, then Assam is over”, said the Chief Minister. He asked the media houses to enquire that why are these people, if landless, not settling in Dhing and Rupohi but immigrating into Borsola and Sipajhar at greater rate.
All these people are from Dholgaon, Baghbor, Mangaldai and Sarukhetri who are coming to Sipajhar. “Encroachment is going on in Sipajhar and Borsola. This trend, they choose certain constituencies every 5 years”, said CM Sarma.
The role of the Popular Front of India (PFI), AAMSU in the violent clash of the Sipajhar Eviction has new developments now. The Chief Minister of Assam Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday had raised questions on the Sipajhar incident – on the lines of the sudden increase in the number of persons in Gorukhuti village. He had said that there is the involvement of a third party in the entire incident as there were only 60 families left to be evicted but suddenly, 10,000 persons turned up. “We will solve the problem. Now the situation is under control. Around 60 families were to be evicted but from where did 10,000 people come? PFI’s involvement is coming forward. PFI and other organisations collected 28 lakhs from the people in Gorukhuti and Dhalpur assuring they will stop the eviction. When that didn’t happen, they plotted the violence. We have got 6 names, we are closely investigating,” said Sarma. It is being now alleged that the Popular Front of India (PFI) – an extremist Islamic organisation – along with AAMSU and took 28-Lakhs from people of Gorukhetri village to file petitions against the Government of Assam, on their behalf.
Along with PFI, the police are also investigating AAMSU’s involvement along with a college professor who allegedly insinuated the violence.
Large-scale encroachment of Government land including forest land is not possible without political patronage and the situation is bad all over the State, particularly in lower Assam, said former Chief Election Commissioner HS Brahma, who headed the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People to The Assam Tribune. The Committee, in its report submitted to the Government, had also given a detailed account of the problem of encroachment of land in the State. Brahma admitted that the problem of encroachment is a serious one and it has already taken a grave turn in eight to ten districts. He said that the problem of encroachment of Government land started assuming serious proportion since 1971 and migration from Bangladesh is one of the root causes for the problem. He pointed out that in the report submitted to the Government, the Committee headed by him had given a detailed picture of the situation and the Government should act immediately to protect the land rights of indigenous people. It may be mentioned here that in its report, the Committee had given a series of recommendations on amending the land laws and admitted that the people of Assam had faced a crisis of identity as their land was encroached upon by illegal migrants. “The most serious threats to the land rights of the indigenous people of Assam, more precisely to the very identity of the indigenous people of Assam, come from the unabated inflow of mi grants across international borders.
The report pointed out that all lands in the char areas settled by a well-established institution known as Matabbar or Dewani. For all practical purposes, they play the role of the Government and dole out land and making allotments of land. They are landlords, with sprawling estates wielding tremendous political and financial clout, which dissuades others from raising voice against them. To inject fear psychosis in the minds of the migrants, the Matabbar utilizes their authority to threaten to get them detected or arrested by the police. Therefore, ignorance or the absence of Governmental control over these vast stretches of Char lands provides the opportunity for all these irregular and criminal activities of these players. Hence, to control this mischief and manipulation, the Government need to intervene strongly and effectively, the report added.
Shri Sailendra Pandey Chairman of Janasankha Samadhan foundation Northeast India chapter said that “Assam is constantly facing troubles from forces that always trying to scrap its identity, indigenous faith, political position, economy and mainly the corridor way towards the eastern part of Asia. Islamic forces and illegal entities have been constantly pushing a narrative about the Assamese people and society. Population burst is a weapon to break indigenous Assamese society, reserve lands and paddy fields and mainly the core of the Assamese society. Many left liberal intellectuals are constantly defending the narrative of the groups like Miya poetry, radical Islamic forces and other illegal activity. We are constantly working on every other possible field to aware Assamese people about the threat of their existence in near future and meanwhile we are appealing both central and state government for a strict population control bill to protect the tribes, groups and Assam from being another Kashmir like state in upcoming times.”
The numbers presented in the assembly formed the basis of BJP’s 2021 poll promise to re- move encroachers. The previous BJP government carried out drives to evict squatters from Kaziranga National Park and from land belonging to Batadraba Than, the birthplace of Srimanta Sankardeva, a 15th-16th century CE polymath.
It has been observed that many Congress and other regional party leaders has strongly condemned the police firing that took place during the anti-encroachment drive at the Dholpur area in Sipajhar. It has also been observed that many opposition leaders are protesting in front of DC and SP office. If these types of things goes on, that the indigenous Assamese leaders are speaking in favour of illegal immigrants than a day will come when indigenous people have to be afraid of illegal immigrants.