On Sunday, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind urged the Assam government to stop its ongoing eviction drive in the State. The Jamiat has accused Dispur of carrying out the eviction drive in Kaziranga tiol Park and some other parts of the State by targeting a particular community. The Jamiat even adopted a resolution after a massive protest rally in Nilbagan in gaon district on Sunday. The resolution put pressure on the government to stop what it called its “biased eviction drive”. The rally was attended by top Jamiat leaders from eastern India, including Siddiqullah Chowdhury, a minister in Bengal, and Assam MP Badruddin Ajmal. According to the secretary of the Assam State unit of the Jamiat, Maula Fazlul Karim Qasimi, “We have nothing against evicting illegal settlers from government lands, tiol parks, reserve forests and other important sites. But the Jamiat has strong reservations against the ongoing eviction drive as it is seen targeting a particular community. The government is claiming that the evicted people are illegal Bangladeshi tiols. According to an estimate there are 40 lakh encroachers on government lands and the majority of them are in the hills. Are all encroachers illegal Bangladeshi tiols? The very notion on which the present government has started the eviction drive in the State is biased and thus the Jamiat wants such exercise to stop so that genuine Indian Muslims do not become homeless.”
The Jamiat’s resolution on the issue of the recent eviction and Qasimi’s statement raise a few questions and observations. As Qasimi has rightly said, there can be no objection to any government evicting illegal settlers from government lands of any category and other important sites. The fact that previous governments have been exceptiolly negligent of their duties in this regard, does not alter the facts of the matter at all. In fact, the present State government of Assam made a promise to the people that it would carry out the eviction of illegal settlers and tiol parks and other government lands that had been neglected for much too long by previous governments. The first question would be related to the government’s priorities in the matter of evictions from government land. Should the government take the logical course of starting evictions were the density of illegal settlers is the greatest or should it ferret out the odds scores of illegal settlers from the hills? The next question relates to Qasimi’s reference to an estimate that there are 40 lakh encroachers on government lands and that the majority of them are in the hills. In all fairness, Qasimi has a duty to let the people know who made this estimate and when it was made, since a finding of the estimate—that the majority of the encroachers are in the hills—is unlikely to be accepted by most people in the State. They have seen how most of the encroachment by illegal settlers from outside the State has taken place on tiol parks, game sanctuaries, reserve forests and such other government land in the plains rather than on the hills. Our information is that virtually all the eviction that took place recently involved illegal settlers from Bangladesh. It is a simple matter of statistics that if we are talking about illegal immigrants from a neighbouring theocratic state that has a Muslim population of close to 94 per cent, the majority of the illegal settlers or encroachers are bound to be Muslims. It is a travesty of the truth to say that the government carried out the recent eviction “targeting a particular community”. If eviction operations are carried out first of all in areas where encroachment is much worse, it is evident that such eviction will affect all illegal settlers of such areas. In such a situation, the State government cannot stop to find out to which community an encroacher belongs. If the majority of the encroachers belong to any particular community, they are being evicted not because the government is “targeting a particular community” but because the majority of the illegal settlers who have encroached on government land happen to belong to a particular community. If most of the encroachers are from Bangladesh (as is the case), a very large percentage of them are bound to be Muslims because the demographic profile of Bangladesh is almost 94 per cent Muslim. Qasimi would be better advised to refrain from commul hair-splitting where it is uncalled for. Likewise, the Jamiat would do better to refrain from telling a State government to stop the eviction operations, since it is merely doing its legitimate duty. And the hint of intimidation that one discerns in the Jamiat’s demands is unjustified and intolerable.