Gorias feel heat of eviction drive in Assam

October 25, 2021 12:00 am | Updated 06:22 am IST - SANOWA (ASSAM)

They fear losing grazing land

A policeman patrolling the government land after the recent eviction in Garukhuti.RITU RAJ KONWARRITU RAJ KONWAR

A policeman patrolling the government land after the recent eviction in Garukhuti.RITU RAJ KONWARRITU RAJ KONWAR

Indigenous Muslims in northern Assam’s Darrang district are now feeling the heat of an eviction drive that was ostensibly aimed at migrant Bengali Muslim settlers on the banks of the Brahmaputra.

Between June 7 and September 23, the district authorities evicted more than 1,000 migrant Muslim families from the Dhalpur area to make way for the Government-run Garukhuti farm project. The eviction was paused after two persons, one a minor, were killed in police firing.

A month on, the indigenous Gorias — a category of Assamese Muslims who played a part in bringing the ‘encroachment’ issue to the fore six years ago — have found themselves at the receiving end.

They are worried about losing access to the land they had been using through generations for seasonal farming and grazing their livestock.

“We have nothing against the Government’s Garukhuti project and the eviction of the encroachers. We also gave up about 700 bighas for the project but sought to retain about 300 bighas closer to our village. But they took that too, leaving us with hardly anything to subsist on,” Sanowa resident Abed Ali told The Hindu .

Mr. Ali is the son of Kobad Ali, president of the local milk producers’ association and one of four who had filed a case in 2015 under the Assam Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2010, seeking the eviction of encroachers from the village grazing reserve and professional grazing reserve south of Sanowa and the adjoining Rajapukhuri inhabited by Assamese Hindus.

“We had a discussion with the local authorities and those in charge of the Garukhuti farm project. We were told that our land would be taken temporarily, but now they have ordered us not to till our land because we have no documents though our forefathers have been using this land for farming and grazing our livestock since the 1800s,” said Julhas Ali, a village leader.

District officials pointed out that the land is Government-owned and the onus was on the authorities to decide how it would be used. “We have just started the project. There is a long way to go,” said BJP legislator Padma Hazarika, who heads the committee set up to implement the project.

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