Authorities in Assam’s Sonitpur district on Tuesday launched a drive to evict over 2,500 families. Most of the persons living in the area are Bengali-speaking Muslims and have been primarily engaged in cultivation.
The authorities claimed that the families have been living illegally on forest land, nearly 1,892 hectares. It was declared a reserve forest in 1974.
The authorities also demolished two mosques.” We have been offering Namaz in this Masjid for the last 35 years,” a resident said.
Sonitpur Deputy Commissioner Deba Kumar Mishra told Times of India that the drive would continue for three days. He claimed that thousands of persons had illegally occupied the area for decades.
Mishra said they are carrying out the eviction exercise at Lathimari, Ganesh Tapu, Baghe Tapu, Gulirpar, and Siali.
The Muslims were seen loading their belongings in tractor trolleys at various places since Tuesday morning, even as bulldozers were deployed to demolish their houses.
While collecting her belongings from the demolished house, Firoza Begum told the PTI news agency that the administration had mentioned it would start eviction from February 20 but suddenly “started eviction from today without any intimation.”
The opposition Congress slammed the BJP-led government for the eviction drive and said many affected families are entitled to land rights according to the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
The Himanta Biswa Sarma-led BJP government has been carrying out eviction drives in different Muslim localities of the state since it assumed power in May 2021.