DIGBOI, Aug 7 - Hundreds of encroachers who were evicted from the Namphai Reserve Forest under Jagun range on Thursday last returned the same day and reoccupied the evicted portion making a mockery of the Forest Department�s eviction drive to ensure green cover in the RF. The encroachers had been released earlier on personal bonds. The eviction drive was carried out by the Digboi Forest Division in association with the civil and police administration.
According to official sources, around 650 houses erected illegally by the encroachers in the heart of the said RF and along the banks of the Namphai river bordering Assam-Arunachal Pradesh in Tinsukia district and Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh were demolished beside apprehending hundreds of encroachers hailing from different communities who have migrated from Sadiya, Dhemaji, Majuli etc., after being hit by floods over a period of time. Around 100 hectares of the encroached RF was evicted.
�As soon as they were released on bond, the same day the encroachers re-entered the RF and we were left with no other alternative than to rearrest them and forward them to the Court for further legal proceedings,� informed the Ranger of the Jagun Range on Friday last after picking up the apprehended women and children at Lekhapani Police Station.
Surprisingly, while talking to this correspondent, one of the apprehended women who claimed to have been living in the RF since 2012 after paying Rs 500 as entry fees revealed that they were earlier assured by their committee members that the Forest Minister on her recent visit to Jagun had promised of not initiating eviction for another eight months for reasons which are not yet known.
�Rehabilitation of the landless prior to eviction ought to be the strategy of the Government of Assam or otherwise the vicious cycle of departmental evictions and re-occupation by the encroachers would be an unending process,� remarked Keshav Sonowal, a former president of the All Assam Sonowal Kachari Students� Union.
�The game of eviction by the Forest Department on the one hand and repossession of the land illegally by the encroachers within a few hours of eviction, bears testimony to the fact that unfair politics is being initiated and played by some vested groups at the cost of the poor and the down trodden who were rendered homeless and jobless after being severely affected by floods in their earlier locations,� remarked the president of the Tai Ahom Students� Union of Jagun unit, adding �had the Government been interested and really concerned about the protection and preservation of the forest resources on the one hand and ensuring basic necessities for these wretched and deprived people on the other hand, it would have resolved the issues much earlier by means of drawing up a permanent and effective rehabilitation strategy�. The body also demanded that eviction be carried out in other areas of Jagun too which have been already encroached by businessmen for green tea cultivation.