Assam: Another arbitrary eviction drive in Kaziranga National Park renders hundreds of people homeless

Pranab Doley of Jeepal Krisak Sramik Sangha put out an urgent appeal on Assam government’s latest round of arbitrary eviction drive on 12 Feburay on his facebook page. According to him, this is just another brutal eviction that follows the game of dispossession that rules the state of Assam. This time the people living in the 6th addition of Kaziranga National Park, Assam were evicted.

According to the appeal, on 12 February 2018 since 9:30 am in the morning hours there has been an indiscriminate demolition of khutis (bamboo huts of cattle herders) in the disputed territories of the 6th addition to Kaziranga. The villagers have recorded cases of harassment and torture of children and elderly persons alike who have been in their khutis to attend to their cattle.

Photo courtesy Pranab Doley

Photo courtesy Pranab Doley

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Photo courtesy Pranab Doley

Eviction of about 70 khutis has taken place today in the area of Kathanibari, Kumurakati (stretch of 8/9 km) extending up to Sila-mari. This whole space is dominantly used by the Muslim cattle herders to graze their livestock.

According to the information from the locals, the Forest Minister of Assam, Pramila Rani Brahma, visited the area just after the poaching of a Rhino was declared, and she arbitrarily decided to evict the area urgently, without taking into consideration rights of the people. Till now a number of more than 65 khutis have already been demolished with bulldozers; even now while writing, men, women and children are being brutally harassed by the forest department of Kaziranga National Park, accompanied by the police and paramilitary personnel, leaving people in a state of fear and panic. There are in total a number of more than 70 khutis which are being planned to be cleaned up.

A forest range officer declared with pride that the place is not under eviction but “ejection”, which signifies the continuity of evictions on the same people as the herders have nowhere else to go with their livestock but to rear them in the same place by repeatedly facing evictions. He also expressly mentioned that there is no clear demarcation of the borders of the 6th addition, and cleaned up actions take place from time to time without any eviction notice; the same place has been already ‘cleaned up’ twice in 2017. All this without taking into consideration the rights of people who have multiple time submitted petitions and claims demanding their grazing rights be recognized.

The area under eviction has been traditionally used by farmers and cattle grazers’ families since 1940/50s, they had access to much interiors of Kaziranga National Park as portrayed in the grazing permissions by the government. Since 1985, an area of 37,6000 hectares has been contested and notified in 1999 under 6th addition of Kaziranga National Park, as part of the buffer zone. This area which has been a contested territory since then, includes the north bank of Brahmaputra river, and the sand bars (chapori), a mobile land which get continuously reshaped by the endless movement of the river.

Taking the excuse of Rhino poaching, a high militarization and coercive policy use in Kaziranga National Park continues to be exercised against the poor farmers whose life depends on natural resources. The Kaziranga administration started its project of extension on revenue land, which has never been under forest department and for which taxes continue to be paid by the forest dwellers to the revenue department.

Now the question is of continuous violation of the fundamental rights of the people living in this area. The 6th addition has been notified without being settled in accordance with the due process of law. It has not taken into consideration the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 as amended in 2006. Thus the area has been encroached by the Kaziranga National Park forcefully evicting the traditional dwellers from their sources of livelihood. No notification and no consultation has taken place in violation of the sec. 4(2) of FRA and sec. 38(V) of WLPA, under which the rights of traditional forest dwellers have to be settled. This also goes against the concept of buffer areas, under which the 6th addition falls, which is supposed to promote co-existence.

Pranab Doley and  Someswar Narah of Jeepal Krisak Sramik Sangha and Ananta Hazarika of Krishak Mahasabha issued an appeal to the authorities urging them to immediately stop violations of the rights of the people, and to respond to the appeal of the people to recognize their customary grazing rights under the existing law. They stated that this was required to stop the endless conflict which continues to create poverty and insecurity amidst the most vulnerable communities of India.

For further details Mr Pranab Doley of Jeepal Krisak Sramik Sangha may be contacted at pranabdoley08@gmail.com

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