After a mock drill with 600 personnel and the CRPF on Sunday to clear 450 hectares of land from encroachers, an eviction drive is underway in Assam's Lakhimpur district. Affecting more than 500 families to clear 450 hectares of the land under Pavo reserved forest, 200 hectares was targeted in the first phase, beginning Tuesday, a senior police official reported. The eviction drive, earlier planned to be carried out in September was deferred due to floods.
Out of 2,560.25 hectares of the reserved forest, only 29 hectares are currently free of any encroachment, they said. In the first phase, Adhasona and Mohaghuli villages will be cleared affecting near 100 families. Runa Neog, Lakhimpur Additional Superintendent of Police said over 60 excavators and tractors and 600 security personnel have been pressed into action since Tuesday morning. "The drive is underway peacefully since 7.30 am and we have not faced any resistance so far. We are expecting a smooth exercise," Neog told PTI.
Neog said security forces had been conducting area domination for the last few days and the "illegal settlers" were asked to vacate their houses. Official sources said that 200 hectares of land in Moghuli village, which had 299 households, will be cleared on Tuesday. The remaining 250 hectares of land in Adhasona village, affecting 200 families, will be taken up later on Tuesday, depending on daylight, or on Wednesday. 43 excavators and 25 tractors have been put to action, while 600 police and CRPF personnel have been deployed.
Following multiple rounds of notiifictions from the authorities, most of the people have already vacated their houses, sources added. Most of the affected familie were Bengali Muslims. Ashok Kumar Dev Choudhury, Lakhimpur divisional forest officer (DFO) said that at least 701 families have encroached upon the Pava reserved forest land over the last decades, which include people from different parts of the state as well as those locals displaced due to flood and erosion.
District deputy commissioner Sumit Sattawan told the media that about 80 families have already left the villages while another 100 still inhabit the villge. "We have requested people still residing on these lands to leave peacefully," he said. The DC added that the forest department and local administration notified the residents in the encroached areas to vacate the lands two years ago. The eNaoboicha circle officer had approached the "encroachers" asking them to leave voluntarily on September 7, he said.
The local settlers had claimed they were earlier given land ownership documents, which were rejected by the present BJP-led Himanta Biswa government. The villagers also alleged that since 2017, the demarcation pillars of Pava reserve forest have changed multiple times, emphasising that "arbitrary marking" was being done to demarcate the boundary ahead of the eviction drive.
(with PTI inputs)