Authorities partially clear ‘illegal settlers’ from reserved forest in Assam’s Lakhimpur

Over 60 excavators and tractors, and 600 security personnel have been pressed into action.

Updated - January 11, 2023 07:06 am IST

Published - January 10, 2023 10:45 am IST - Lakhimpur (Assam)

In this file photo, police personnel oversee an anti-encroachment drive, at Batadrava in Nagaon district of Assam.

In this file photo, police personnel oversee an anti-encroachment drive, at Batadrava in Nagaon district of Assam. | Photo Credit: PTI

The authorities in Lakhimpur district of Assam on Tuesday launched a drive to evict “illegal settlers” from a reserved forest measuring 2,560.25 hectares.

Officials said the eviction drive was carried out during the day to clear about 450 hectares of the Pavo Reserved Forest from “illegal settlers”. More than 60 excavators and tractors were engaged under the watch of around 600 security personnel.

“We dismantled the illegal structures in more than 50% of the encroached area. Most of the settlers had already left after receiving notices earlier,” Superintendent of Police, Lakhimpur, B.M. Rajkhowa told The Hindu.

“The entire operation was carried out peacefully. The eviction drive in the remaining area will be completed tomorrow (Wednesday),” he said.

The district’s Deputy Commissioner, Sumit Sattawan said the Forest Department and the local administration had notified encroachers to vacate the area two years ago. More than 500 families were living in the part of the reserved forest where the eviction is being carried out. The households were divided between the Moghuli and Adhasona villages.

Officials said the settlers occupied the forest illegally over the last three decades and even shifted the pillars demarcating the forest area. Apart from locals displaced by flood and erosion, the “illegal settlers” included people from other parts of Assam.

The evicted people claimed they had been given land ownership documents, but these were rejected by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. Officials said the documents were found to be fake upon scrutiny.

The Assam government has been carrying out eviction drives in different parts of the State since September 2021. One of these drives, in Gorukhuti area of Darrang district, led to the death of two people in a police firing.

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