About 70 families were evicted from their homes in the Lahorijan area of Assam’s Karbi Anglong district on Sunday, leading to a protest by the locals. The police said they used batons, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protestors.

No civilian was hurt, but one policeman was severely injured,” Superintendent of Police Pushpraj Singh said, reported The Indian Express. Singh claimed that the police used “mild force” to disperse the locals after they threw stones.

The eviction drive began on Sunday on the orders of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, which has executive powers over land revenue matters in the area, including eviction of alleged encroachers.

The council had planned to evict around 100 families from the Balijan C village, but 34 households were exempted from the drive because of a stay order by the Gauhati High Court.

The area lies along the border between Nagaland and Assam. The residents are a mix of Bengali-speaking Muslims and Nagas. They claim they have been living in the area for over 30 years and have all the necessary documents.

“We had requested [for] some time from the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, but they carried out the eviction forcefully anyway,” village chairperson K Aye told The Indian Express. “Now we have nowhere to go.”

The village head also said that that people belonging to the Naga community make up to 80% of residents of Khan Basti, which is part of Balijan C. The residents claim that they had bought the land from the descendants of Hazi Manigul Khan, who had established the village in 1910.

“The villagers are not claiming that this particular area is disputed or that it belongs to Nagaland,” said Kegwayhun Tep, the president of Naga Student Federation. “This land belongs to Assam, but Nagas, who live there, have purchased this land with money. They have Aadhaar cards, Voter IDs, they pay bills – and have been living there for decades.”

The Naga Student Federation, a students’ body of the Nagas, had also written to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, asking them not to conduct the eviction.

In January, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio too had written to his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma, urging him to “protect the lives and property of the Naga residents of Karbi Anglong in keeping with social justice and spirit of good neighbourly relations between the two states”.

On Monday, Tuliram Ronghang, a chief executive member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, said that he had held a review meeting on the eviction drive yesterday. “The eviction drive will continue until all illegal settlers in the area are removed,” Ronghang said on Twitter. “Not an inch will be allowed to be encroached upon by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.”

This the third eviction drive in the Lahorijan area. The first two were conducted in December.

The Assam government has been conducting widespread eviction drives to clear plots of land of those whom it has branded “encroachers”. Many of those who have been evicted or are being asked to vacate are poor Muslims who had earlier lost land in floods and erosion.

During one of these drives on September 23, two civilians, including a 12-year-old child, were killed in police firing in the Sipajhar area of Assam’s Darrang district. It was the second mass eviction drive that week.

In November, the Assam government had conducted an eviction drive in the Lumding reserve forest in Hojai district.

Also read:

Four months after violent Assam evictions, displaced families say they got no relief from government