The Assam government has decided to relocate all 2,051 families living in the Garukhuti Project Area of Darrang district to the Dalgaon region, according to minutes of a meeting of the local MLA, district and police officials. Dalgaon is situated about 50 kilometres away from Garukhuti.

The Assam government has been carrying out eviction drives, alleging that these families have encroached upon plots of land in the Garukhuti Project Area.

In September, during one such drive in the Sipajhar area of Garukhuti, two locals, including a 12-year-old child, were killed after the Assam Police opened fire on villagers protesting against the eviction. The villages that have been issued eviction notices are mostly home to Muslims of Bengali origin.

On January 31, Darrang MLA Majibar Rahman, officials of the district administration along with the police and representatives of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union held a meeting to decide on future eviction drives and relocating displaced families.

According to the minutes of the meeting, it was decided that the 2,051 families will be relocated to 2,051 bighas of land under the Dalgaon Revenue Circle. Each family will be allotted 1 bigha, or 27,000 square feet of land.

Darrang MLA Rahman said he will cooperate with the eviction process. Rejaul Karim Sarkar, the president of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union, said that the organisation was not against eviction but wanted proper rehabilitation for those affected by it.

In first phase of the relocation process, 423 families living in Niz-Salmanpara and Dhalpur-1 areas will be shifted, while 210 families who have already left Garukhuti will be rehabilitated immediately after this, according to the minutes of the meeting.

A committee headed by the circle officer of Dalgaon Revenue Circle has been formed to carry out the process. The All Assam Minority Students’ Union and minorities’ rights body Asom Sankhalaghu Sangram Parishad have been given the responsibility to convince people to relocate.

The Darrang deputy commissioner said that strict action will be taken if any person tries to “jeopardise the entire process”.

Sipajhar killings

The two residents were killed in Sipajhar during one of the several eviction drives that the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led government has been conducting 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.

The Assam Criminal Investigation Department is investigating the Sipajhar killings and has arrested three men for allegedly instigating the violence. The Assam Human Rights Commission has held that the violence amounted to a prima facie case of human rights violation.