Guwahati, July 17: Around 12,000 Mising community people, displaced due to change in course of the Brahmaputra river 70 years ago, are likely to find new homes outside a national park in Assam's Tinsukia district where they are now living, an official statement said.
The state government will soon issue a notification for rehabilitation of the Missing people of Laika and Dodhia forest villages of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, it said. The matter was taken up at a high-level meeting where issues related to the Forest Rights Act, 2006 were discussed.
"During the meeting, the issue regarding rehabilitation of the people residing at Laika and Dodhia in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Tinsukia district was discussed at length. The forest department will soon issue a notification in this regard (rehabilitation)," the statement said on Friday. Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes Minister Ranuj Pegu, Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya and MLA Bhuban Pegu along with officers of various departments were present at the meeting. The government emphasised on preparing a road-map for implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, on a mission mode with the WPT and BC being the nodal department and Environment and Forest as associate one.
The plight of a group of Mising people, the second largest ethnic community of Assam, dates back to 1950 when a change in course of the Brahmaputra river took place after an earthquake, rendering 75 families of Murkongselek along Arunachal Pradesh border homeless. The story repeated in 1957 with 90 households in Aukland area of Rahmaria revenue circle in Dibrugarh district becoming homeless due to river erosion, and they were forced to move out and took shelter in the then Dibru Reserve Forest.
These displaced agrarian people prefer to live by the riverside. They moved to the southern bank of Brahmaputra and came to the forest area surrounded by six rivers Lohit, Dibang and Disang on the north, and Anantanala, Dangori and Dibru in the south. The problem of these people started in 1999 when the forest was declared as Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, and it made any human habitation inside the protected area illegal. Since then, five governments of different political parties such as the AGP, the Congress and the BJP have ruled the state but no concrete step was initiated to rehabilitate the ethnic community people.
The Laika-Dadhia Rehabilitation Demand Committee's chief convenor Minturaaj Morang had earlier told PTI that forced by natural calamities, the villagers tried to move out and settle in other places several times, but had to return on the government promise of proper rehabilitation.
An attempt was made in 2020 when the Tinsukia district administration identified 320 hectares of land at Ouguri in Lakhipathar area for settlement of the Mising people, but it was later withdrawn after the local Moran community opposed the rehabilitation, Morang said. AGP MLA Ponakan Baruah wrote to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on May 24, highlighting the plight of these people and pointed out that at least four attempts have been made to relocate the villagers, but none has been successful.
Baruah said the previous BJP government had earmarked Rs 10 crore for the rehabilitation of the forest villagers, but they could not be relocated due to the non-availability of land. Last year, former Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, on the basis of a committee report, had directed to rehabilitate Dodhia villagers in Lakhimpur and Laika residents in Tinsukia district.
The rehabilitation proposal was sent to the government on January 8 for immediate in-principal approval. With no rehabilitation programme in sight, the villagers have resorted to protest for years now. More than 2,000 people have been camping at Tinsukia city and holding demonstrations on rotation since December 21 last year to push for their demand.