Saturday, March 2, 2024

Assam villagers to continue agitation for early resettlement 

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GUWAHATI: Members of the Laika and Dodhia Rehabilitation Committee have slammed the “indifference” of the Tinsukia district administration, alleging that basic facilities have not been provided at the makeshift camp where protesters have taken refuge since the past 18 days.

The committee is spearheading an agitation for rehabilitation of over 1400 families of Laika and Dodhia, two villages under Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Upper Assam.

Meanwhile, a pregnant woman camping with the protesters at the makeshift protest camp at Lezaihola Borguri near the office of the Tinsukia deputy commissioner fell ill and had to be admitted to the Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH) in Dibrugarh in a critical condition.

Kusmita Morang (24) of Dodhia village was referred to AMCH from the Tinsukia Civil Hospital on Wednesday.

“She was unconscious at that time and now at the intensive care unit of AMCH. This is just one instance of the apathy on the part of the district authorities towards the protesters. There are no basic amenities not to mention any medical facilities at the camp. Our people have been camping here for 18 days now braving the winter chill,” Apio Taid, a member of Laika and Dodhia Rehabilitation Committee, told The Shillong Times on Thursday.

The Assam government had on December 30, 2020, constituted a ten-member committee to find out ways for relocation and rehabilitation of the residents by the end of this month.

“But we have lost our faith in the government. Over the past three years, the government has made assurances for our relocation in two forest areas but to no avail,” Taid said.

Last year, the government gave a written assurance to rehabilitate the families on a 470-hectare plot in the Ouguri area of Upper Dehing Reserve Forest.

However the forest department objected to the move, saying that 8,000 trees will have to be uprooted for land clearance. Now we have been informed that a 166-hectare plot, currently a tea garden area at Paharpur, has been located in the district but relocation would mean that the tea garden area has to be cleared,” he said.

“We are ready to go to Paharpur, but it is highly unlikely that the relocation would be possible immediately. We have also made it clear that we are against any move for resettlement in a flood-prone area as the one identified in Lakhimpur district,” Taid added.

The villagers, who belong to the Mising community, mostly displaced people (by the earthquake of 1950) from Dhemaji and Dibrugarh districts, have been residing in the two forest villages for the past several decades now.

The villages are cut off from the mainland and devoid of basic amenities like electricity and water supply besides health care and education. Flood and erosion have been a perennial problem as well.

The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 prohibits human settlement inside a national park, and hence, no development has been carried out in the two villages.

But protesters are adamant to keep the agitation, which has been off and on for years now, going unless their demand for permanent settlement is fulfilled.

“We will keep our protest on till our demand is fulfilled. We have been deprived of our rights. Worse still, the district administration has not provided basic facilities at the camp,” a protester said.

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