ISLAMPUR (WEST BENGAL), Aug 21 - Once they were counted as well-off farmers in their native villages, but now they are daily wage earners in a neighbouring State.
Over 600 Adivasi families from Assam are sustaining themselves working as daily wage earners at Cemetery-Polton in Islampur area of North Dinajpur district in West Bengal. They were compelled to migrate to this area only to save their lives during the ethnic clashes in 1996.
These people are residents of Kokrajhar district�s Takampur, Ranipur, Amritpur, Raimona, Auxiguri, Balamjhora, Saraigaon, Bangti, Kusumbil, Mothambil, Nasraibil, Dalgaon, Athiabari, Serfanguri and Chirang district�s Bengtol and Koilamoila villages. Each of them had a minimum of eight to 20 bighas of fertile lands in their native villages and hence they were self-sufficient farmers. But the 1996 ethnic clashes forced them to leave their native places when arsonists had burnt their houses and assets. Some had even lost their family members in the clash.
They somehow managed to reach Cemetery-Polton, which is 287 km from Kokrajhar district and close to the India-Bangladesh border in Islampur area and somehow managed jobs there as daily workers in the newly-set up tea gardens.
These Adivasis are residing in hutments beside the 15-km-long Islampur-Cemetery Polton main road. They get only Rs 150 as daily wages for working in the gardens and nothing else.
A majority of these 600 families have their names in the second draft of the NRC in Assam. They also come to their native villages in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts to cast their ballots during elections. But they are not allowed by some fringe elements to resettle on their own lands in their villages. Hence, after casting their votes they go back to Bengal.
�We want to return to our native villages (in Assam�s Kokrajhar district), but some vested groups do not allow us to re-settle on our lands there�, some of poor Adivasis told this correspondent.
If they cannot resettle on their lands in their native places in the State, they would be deprived of getting land pattas as per the Forest Right Act, 2006. During surveys they had to include their names in the report as the occupants of the lands on which they had been residing since many years, said an Adivasi leader.
So, if the government and the BTC administration do not take urgent steps to rehabilitate these ousted Adivasi families in their native villages, the matter will be taken to the United Nations Organisation (UNO) for natural justice, a group of Adivasi leaders opined.