Eviction drive in Assam’s Orang National Park to create animal corridor

eviction Drive

More than 500 ‘illegal settlers’ were evicted from Assam’s Orang National Park on Sunday as the administration cleared land to make way for an animal corridor.

Officials said this was part of a four-day eviction drive that has been started Sunday from Sonitpur district this morning to clear “encroached land” and nearly 800 families were affected.

The Orang National Park is spread over an area of 89 sq km in Sonitpur and Darrang districts and the eviction exercise is being carried out to clear “encroached land for an animal corridor” to Kaziranga National Park.

Sonitpur deputy commissioner Deba Kumar Mishra said all the areas to be covered by the eviction drive are ‘char’ (land which crops up because of siltation of the river) areas in the district.

“Eviction drive was carried out in five char areas today and it will be done in another four such spots on Monday. The drive went off smoothly today,” Mishra said.

The majority of those living on the ‘char land’ had already left the area, the DC claimed.

The Himanta Biswa Sarma-led state government has been carrying out evictions since assuming power in May 2021.

A number of opposition parties and social organisations have voiced criticism of the exercise and expressed concerns at the loss of housing and livelihood for a segment of people who were described as marginalised and poor.

Most of those affected till now included Muslims and tribals, though majority Ahoms have also been affected.

An official said heavy machinery was not used in the drive on Sunday due to problem in transporting them to the spot.

“The eviction teams had to travel by boats and cross water streams. So, we did not use any heavy machinery.

“We had arranged for adequate security to ensure the law and order situation,” the official said.

He said most of the residents were from neighbouring Nagaon and Morigaon districts and had already left their homes.

Over 13,000 acre in the National Park is targeted to be cleared during the operation, of which more than 6,800 acre are in Sonitpur.

Earlier this year, in one of the largest eviction drives in Assam, the administration in a three-day exercise from February 14 onwards had cleared 2,099 hectare in Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary and nearby revenue villages in Sonitpur district, affecting almost 12,800 people.

On February 15, in Digboi of Tinsukia district in upper Assam, security personnel resorted to lathi charge when alleged encroachers of railway land pelted stones to prevent an eviction drive there.

On the same day, the Barpeta district administration carried out an eviction drive in Bhabanipur area to clear nearly 300 hectare belonging to Gopal Dev Aata Satra (Vaishnavite monastery).

Setting aside opposition criticism, the chief minister had on December 21 last year told the state Assembly that eviction drives to clear government and forest lands in Assam would continue as long as the BJP is in power.