New Delhi, (GNI): Since Monday (27 November) the state government of Assam has launched an all-out offensive against indigenous communities and people’s movement Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti. No one can deny Assam state governments openly Hindutva character as the root cause of this repression of muslims and Mising, Karbi, Rabha, Dimasa, Bodo, Koch, Kalita, Ahom and other indigenous communities. At the same time, the violent crackdown on one of the strongest farmers’ movements of the country – Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti is an attempt to stifle any voice that is against ‘corporate resource loot’.
On one hand this same BJP government both at central and state level has completely diluted environmental governance by diluting laws and using the MoEF as a clearance ministry for industries and on the other hand it is playing the farce of saving the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary by evicting indigenous communities who live in harmony with nature.
KMSS staged a protest at Panjabari on Sunday morning, demanding a halt in the eviction drive scheduled to resume inside Amchang wildlife sanctuary on Monday and submitted a memorandum to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, calling for a solution to the settlement issue through discussions. Earlier, the eviction drive was launched in August, but was suspended after two days because of massive protests.
On Monday, 1,500 police personnel came with their guns, tear gas shells, 15 elephants, 20 excavators, 20 Executive Magistrates, and the entire Forest department, District Administration, Assam Power Distribution Corp. Ltd., State Disaster Response Force, Health and other emergency services and brutally demolished hundreds of homes in the Amchang area near Guwahati, Assam. It was estimated that there are nearly 3,000 families inside the wildlife sanctuary, but some had shifted to other places before the eviction was launched.
What was BJP government’s urgency in engaging in a wilful misinterpretation of the High Court order, which did not even specify a date for clearing ‘encroachments’? Clear violations of rehabilitation and others norms have been done. While the truth is that Cement companies AG Cement and Raksha Cement, Tea Gardens, coke calcination, brick kilns are the real encroachers who create havoc with the environment in this reserved forest area which was declared in 2004. Even total area and Eco-sensitive zones have not been clearly defined.
Apart from failure in securing environment, the BJP government is a complete failure when it comes to housing rights of the people. With the continuous chain of evictions from Dharamshala to Indore and Bhopal, from Mumbai to Delhi in the name of Smart Cities raises a serious question as to where will the people go if the only space you have is declared illegal! Same goes for the habitation rights of forest dwelling people and declaration of reserved forests.
7 protestors were injured or grievously hurt. 35 year old Malati Das is admitted to Guwahati Medical College in ICU with a live bullet injury. Amina Khatun and Rashida Ahmed are grievously injured and admitted to Guwahati Medical College in ICU. Gautam Baishya, Utpal Patgiri and 75 others were injured.
KMSS leader and advisor Bedanta Laskar, Joint Gen Secretary Dhaijya Konwar, and activist Gopi Saikia were arrested from various parts of the city. Bedanta and Gopi were not even present in the site, but picked up while coming in a motorcycle in the middle of the city. They were charged with sections 120C, 147, 148, 353, 333, 338, 325 and 188 of the IPC and sent to 14 days jail custody. On 28 November police release an arrest warrant for KMSS leader Dhasko Dey Saikia. On the same day, police even arrested people from outside the CJM court where the leaders were to be produced, including Bedanta Laskar’s father. The ‘witch hunt’ against KMSS is on and the police are trying to suppress any voice of resistance against this total failure of justice and human rights in the state of Assam.
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi is already facing incarceration under the draconian National Security Act (NSA) for over a year now. Various human rights teams have failed to get him released. Perhaps, the BJP government is too afraid of people’s leader Akhil Gogoi and of KMSS, the voice of peasants.
Meanwhile, protests have spread into Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Naganv, Mairiganv, Dhemaji, Dhokuwakhana, Darang, Kamrup, Goalpara, Dhubri, Barpeta and Bagaiganv. CM Sonowal has issued a statement that evictions will be halted but has not issued any written order.
We demand from the Assam government:
– Release Akhil Gogoi and other leaders of KMSS immediately and unconditionally.
– Protect forests from corporate loot, stop evicting people in the name of saving forests.
– Ensure forest rights and housing rights of the people of Assam. Ends