The eviction drive in Assam’s Sipajhar district on September 20 and 23 last year sent ripples across global media after one of the evictees, Moynul Haque, was shot dead by the police and then his lifeless body was stomped upon by photographer Bijoy Bania. Seven months later, the 1,481 families evicted from Dholpur are still struggling to recover.

The eviction drive was to clear the government land for the Rs 9.6 crore agricultural project, known as the Gorukhuti Project, meant to employ indigenous youths of Assam.

Those evicted have been provided with a temporary shelter in the southern part of Dholpur. They are, however, not allowed to set foot in the project area.

Sirajul Hoque, a resident of Dholpur claims they had been residing in Dholpur for generations. But travelling to those villages seems like crossing the India-China border now.

This also keeps them from basic medical facilities since all the roads connecting Dholpur to Garukhuti Mini Primary Health Centre have been cut off.

Upamanyu Hazarika, a Supreme Court lawyer and convenor of the Prabajan Birodhi Mancha, an anti-influx body, branded the evicted as “Bangladeshis” with easy access to centres that facilitated them with citizenship documents.

“These people came in about 1980-85. They have grown in number and that is the standard practice of how infiltrators come and encroach upon lands and drive away the indigenous inhabitants.

This process has been taking place from 1985 onwards and it has now reached its peak. What has happened is that they have become a vote bank for our political parties,” he said.

In Assam, when it comes to the eviction of the Bengali-Muslim community, there is a thin line between illegal settlers and illegal immigrants. The citizenship of the community is often questioned.

As of April 2022, at least five cases on the eviction drives carried out in Sipajhar are being contested in the Gauhati High Court. The last PIL, signed by Sirajul Haque and 246 others, was filed in August 2021. Those evicted are now at the mercy of the judiciary while awaiting judgements in the cases.

Also read: On Mental Health Day, let us recognise trauma caused by fear of evictions

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