Lakhimpur: An eviction drive to clear 450 hectares of forest land from “illegal settlers” was underway in Assam’s Lakhimpur District on Tuesday in the Pavo reserve forest area. Chief Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma told the media that the administration has cleared almost 400 hectares of forest land on the first day of the eviction drive. It will continue on Wednesday also. He also categorically mentioned that eviction drives to clear Satra, government and forest land will continue in the State.
Out of 2,560.25 hectares of the Pavo reserved forest, only a few hundred hectares are currently free of any encroachment, forest officials in Lakhimpur said.
Administration on January 10, evicted more than 600 illegal encroaching families, almost all of them are Muslims, from the reserve forest area.
450 hectares of land under the Pavo reserved forest was under encroachment, with 200 hectares being targeted in the first phase on Tuesday. But the administration achieved more than the target on the first day of eviction.
Lakhimpur administration said over 60 excavators and tractors and 600 security personnel have been pressed into action since morning.
The drive has been underway peacefully since 7.30 am and it has not faced any resistance so far. Most of the encroacher families had left the area after the heavy deployment of security forces by the administration. Security forces had been conducting area domination for the last few days and the “illegal settlers” were asked to vacate their houses.
Official sources said that 200 hectares of land in Moghuli village, which had 399 households, was cleared on Tuesday.
The remaining 302 hectares of land in Adhasona village, with around 200 families, will be taken up later on January 11. The second day of the eviction drive will be much easier for the administration as most of the families left the place taking their belongings.
Altogether 43 excavators and 25 tractors have been pressed into action, while 600 police and CRPF personnel have been deployed to run one of the biggest eviction drives in the State.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the master seeds cultivation in the area is also cleared by the administration. The place was once a home for Asiatic water buffalo, elephants, leopards and lots of birds. The encroachers made it farmland which is not acceptable. It will be developed as a part of the Pavo forest area after the eviction.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Ashok Kumar Dev Choudhury had said that 701 families have encroached upon the Pavo reserved forest land over the last three decades. Locals alleged that under the patronage of the Congress government, hundreds of illegal migrant Muslim families have encroached on the Pavo reserve forest in the last few decades.
The “illegal settlers” include people from different parts of the state as well as Bengali-speaking Muslims from the Nowboicha constituency. They had claimed they were earlier given land ownership documents by some Dalas which were found to be fake and which were rejected by the Land and Revenue department.
Deputy Commissioner of Lakhimpur Sumit Sattawan told the media that the people living in the encroached areas were notified by the forest department and local administration two years ago to vacate the area.
In July 2022, 84 families submitted documents claiming land ownership but these were found to be fake upon scrutiny. How can someone get a land document inside a reserve forest, an official asked.
On September 7, the circle officer of Nowboicha personally approached the encroachers and asked them to leave voluntarily, he said. The drive was supposed to be carried out in September but was deferred due to floods. It should be mentioned that the Guwahati high court has ordered the state government to clear all the forest land in the state from encroachment. Last year the government conducted an eviction drive in the Lumding reserve forest and evicted almost 1000 Muslim encroacher families.