Under the anti-encroachment drive organised by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government, acres of land have been cleared over the past years. In the recent move, the district administration of Sagar cleared a piece of forest land encroached by the land and conversion mafia. The administration demolished as many as 9 houses including a Church where illegal conversion activities were going on. The drive has sparked political controversy in the region.
Most recently, the district administration in Sagar has demolished as many as ten houses including an illegal Church, which was built over forest land. However, the opposition party including Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati have started a political debate over it. These leaders accused Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government anti-poor and anti-dalit.
The Congress party leader Priyanka wrote, “The atrocities of the BJP government on Dalits in Madhya Pradesh is at its peak. Houses of 10 Dalit families were demolished in Sagar district. The families who had gone to work as laborers, had their entire household destroyed without giving any information. The houses built under the PM Awas Yojana were also demolished.
In the arrogance of power, the BJP has forgotten that the work of the government is not to uproot the people but to settle them. The people of Madhya Pradesh will teach a lesson to the BJP government which perpetrated atrocities on Dalits, tribals and the poor.”
The BSP supremo Mayawati wrote, “The destructive malicious bulldozer politics of the Madhya Pradesh government, while demolishing people’s homes and schools, has now started demolishing the houses of the poor built under the PM Awas Yojana, which is highly condemnable. In this sequence, the destruction of houses of seven Dalit families built under the PM scheme in Sagar district is shameful.”
The demolition drive was organised in the Raipura area of the Sagar city in Madhya Pradesh where illegal houses were built on forest land. The administration has been issuing notices for the past two years but the encroachers never took it seriously.
On the orders of the district magistrate and the task force, ranger Lakhan Singh Thakur reached the Raipura panchayat area on June 21. A day before the drive, the South Forest Division DFO had written a letter to the Collector demanding extra force to remove the encroachment. The forest land from which the encroachment was removed had a church where religious programs were also held. Due to the construction of a church near the township, the matter is also linked to the angle of conversion.
On the same day, on June 21, as many as 10 houses were demolished in the area. Following the demolition drive Ex-Chief Minister and Congress leader, Digvijay Singh also reached the spot and protested for four long hours.
On June 2, 2021, a person named Narendra Ahirwar demanded the collector to remove the church and encroachment built illegally by occupying the forest land. In the letter given to the collector, it was said that the church has been constructed by occupying the forest land behind Raipura village under Bhilaiya Beat of the South Forest Division. The encroachment on the land of the forest department should be investigated and demolished and action should be taken against the culprits.
Let us take you through a series of notices and circulars issued by the administration asking the encroachers to vacate the land:
March 24, 2021 – The then SDM Pawan Baria wrote in a letter to the Collector that the Tehsildar’s investigation report regarding the forest land has arrived. In which it was said that the church was built 5 years ago by illegally occupying the forest land adjacent to Patwari Halka No 57 in Rapura village. In the Church religious programs were taking place. An inquiry should also be conducted in this regard by the Forest Department.
27 March 2021 – After the investigation report of the Revenue Department, the South Forest Division Officer ordered the ranger to investigate the matter and submit the investigation report in three days so that legal action can be taken as per the rules.
17 September 2021-DFO gave notices to the people occupying the forest land. It said that illegal encroachment has been done in Reserve Forest-740 of Bhilaiya Beat of the forest area of Raipura village. For this reason, a primary forest offence has been registered against all. After giving the notice, all the encroachers were given 5 days to present their documents. After not getting any response, unilateral action was said to be taken.
24 January 2022 – South Forest Division DFO ordered the eviction of all encroachers. It said that no reply was given to the notice issued on 17 September 2021 and the encroachment was also not removed from the land. That is why eviction orders were issued from forest land. The notice said, if the encroachment was not evicted within two days, the property will be confiscated and confiscated in favour of the government.
June 5, 2023 – Even after the eviction order of January 24, when the encroachment was not removed, the DFO again gave notices to all the encroachers on June 5. A copy of the same was also pasted outside their homes. It was said in these notices that several letters were issued even before this, but the encroachment was never removed. Considering this as the last chance, free the forest land from encroachment in three days. Otherwise, action will be taken to make the forest land encroachment free with the help of police administration.
On June 20, the South Forest Divisional Officer wrote a letter to the Collector asking for the police force to remove the encroachment. The DFO said in the letter that 9 people have encroached on forest land in Reserve Forest-740 of Bhilaiya Beat. By registering a forest offence case against them under Section-80(A), show cause orders and eviction orders have been written repeatedly to free the forest land from encroachment, but till now the forest land has not been freed from encroachment.
The letter further read, ‘There is a possibility of a situation of dispute on the spot and hence extra force will be required. The DFO also asked the Collector to send the concerned SDM, Tehsildar, Police and SAF team to the spot and cooperate in removing the encroachment.’.
As per the discussion on June 19, the collector issued orders to remove the encroachment on June 21.