By Muhammad Abdus Samad

Since the British rule in Assam, most of the Bengali-speaking Muslims have been living on both banks of the River Brahmaputra and cultivating the lands available on the same banks for growing different crops and jute for their livelihood. But flood causes havoc every year in the state, rendering most of them displaced and homeless and perishing their crops and jute. Moreover, flood erodes the  banks of the river every year, washing away their residential areas to the river and bringing silts on the corn-fields. If an area is once filled with silts, it becomes unfit for growing any crop for a long time.

If anybody visits these areas, he will see many residential areas like South Salmara, Jaleswar, Fakirganj, Mankachar, etc. under the water of the River Brahmaputra and vast corn-fields filled with silts. In fact, these people have already lost food, cloth and shelter, the basic things needed for survival on earth. They are leading a miserable life caused by the perennial flood and erosion in their areas. It is a pity that the government has not so far taken proper measure to control perennial flood affecting these people nor to rehabilitate them in a safer place for the reason best known to it.

Finding no place to live in and earn livelihood in those areas, these people are compelled to move from one place to another in search of food, cloth and shelter. Finally they have encroached upon the government lands and forest covers for settlement and employment. It needs mention here that these people have in their possession sufficient documents, including the NRC of Assam 2020 to substantiate their citizenship in India. Nevertheless some Hindutva organisations consider them illegal foreign nationals of Bangladesh and seek their deportation from Assam, and thus India.

After its assumption of power for second time in Assam, the BJP-led Government has started evicting the people living on government lands in places like Gorukhuti, Kaziranga and Lumding Forest Reserve for decades without prior arrangement of their rehabilitation at other places. It has already evicted as many as 12000 families from those government lands and again served notice directing other such people living on other government lands in Dhing and Dhekiajuli to vacate those areas within 15 days. Now the evictees with their families are spending time under the open sky.

According to the Constitution, India is a welfare state. A welfare state is always required to ensure at least food, cloth and shelter for its citizens. Since these landless evicted people are bona-fide citizens of India, the Government of India is necessarily obliged to allot lands to each family so that it enables them to acquire food, cloth and shelter for survival with  their identity and dignity in  a civilized manner.

[Muhammad Abdus Samad writes from Dhupdhara, Assam]

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