GUWAHATI, Aug 25 - Years ago, after they lost their homes to flood and erosion, they had thought a hillside could be a haven for them. Today, their dreams of a secure home were shattered again when they were forced out of their dwellings inside the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, making way for Nature and its animal kingdom.
But at Kankannagar, behind the Veterinary College, as officials of the administration implemented a High Court order to secure the threatened sanctuary and evicted people shed tears sitting on their portable belongings which were moved to safety before their houses were demolished, there were more stories about government neglect than Nature�s fury.
�We came here from Lakhimpur. Our homes were washed away by the floods. We have been here since 1998. We have ration cards, voter identity cards�We are more indigenous than the settlers inside Kaziranga. This government is against the indigenous people,� an angry Mononjoi Doloi said.
Like Mononjoi, many of the inhabitants of Kankannagar are flood-hit, who came here after losing everything to Nature�s fury either in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur or Majuli. They admit they have �occupied land illegally�, but at the same time, demand an answer from the government as to �where they will go�.
�If the government can give land to Ramdev, Dabur and other investors from outside, why can�t it rehabilitate us?� argues Debarun Taid, who also came here from Lakhimpur, waving his voter identity card.
�We have nothing to say if the government wants to protect the wildlife. But who will protect humans like us,� he adds.
Intriguingly, most of these settlers have voter identity cards, ration cards and even paid APDCL power connections, indicating an apparent political patronage. They have been exercising their franchise in the past several elections at Baghorbori Primary School.
Most of them are daily wage earners and some are even into jobs in private firms. There are over 200 families in the area.
Sanjoy Miri, who led a group shouting anti-government slogans near a foothill, recalls the condition of the flood-hit in upper Assam. �Go and see the condition of the people. There is no relief, no assistance..where will they go? Why won�t people join insurgent movements?� he complained as he spoke to journalists at the site.
Among the evicted were several infants and minor children who cried as their houses were raged down.
Hemen Das, a resident of Botahguli just adjacent to the sanctuary, sympathised with the plight of the �encroachers.� �It is not that they have settled here overnight. It had happened over the years. Why didn�t the government properly demarcate the sanctuary when it was notified and deploy guards and forest camps to protect it? How did they (settlers) get voter IDs, ration cards, power connections, etc. Such actions of the government will only divide the people,� Das felt.
There have been allegations that the people were resettled in the sanctuary by two former MLAs.
When asked about the documents in possession of the settlers, Deputy Commissioner M Angamuthu said, �Not only these, some even have GMC holding numbers and APDCL connections. We will conduct a thorough probe as to how they got these. Action will be taken against those officials who were involved.�