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Dispur battles dilemma, indigenous people unsure

HS Brahma Committee on Land Reforms

The question essentially boils down to the very existence of a people in their very land – which in fact is a blatant violation of their human rights, the right to exist as human beings with basic rights, the rights over their maati and bheti. And when there is neither maati nor bheti, how on earth can anyone talk of any jaati?

Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 19: Faced with the situation of the indigenous people of the State having to negotiate an outdated land policy aggravating their woes in the wake of the unabated settlement of illegal immigrants in hordes from Bangladesh who have outnumbered the sons of the soil in several districts of the State, the Sarbananda Sonowal government, after assuming power, sought to allay the indigenous fears by enacting a new land policy, whose responsibility was given to a committee for suggesting radical measures so as to undo the wrongs of the past. Unfortunately, the committee morphed into a divided house, complicating matters further. The government now battles a serious dilemma.
The Tarun Gogoi government too had tried to hammer out a solution, but in vain. It was in February 2017 that the newly sworn Sonowal government constituted a seven-member committee headed by former Chief Election Commissioner Hari Shankar Brahma to come up with suggestions for a new land policy and present a report to the government. The committee was named ‘Committee for Land Laws, Government Circulars and Land Policy for Ensuring Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People in the State of Assam’.
What eventually happened was that the committee was riddled with a difference of opinion – among its members and the chairman; while the chairman wanted to give his own report, the members had a different version in their mind. Subsequently, the committee gave the Revenue Department two draft reports, different in many respects. This threw the government into a whirlpool.
After the receipt of the two separate drafts, the Chief Minister took a decision to sort out the differences between them. The Revenue Department found out five-six differences. The Chief Minister had also asked the department to see what impact on its rules the suggestions in both the drafts could have. The department has worked this out. Now the department is set to place all its findings before the Chief Minister.
At present, the anachronistic land policy of Assam is governed by two regimes – the Land Policy 1989 Assam and the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act 1886, both of which have outgrown their times.
Now the hugely upsetting question is two-fold:
(1) With the government burdened with two separate drafts from the committee, in which differences are sharp, will not there be undue delay in presenting the indigenous people a land policy to their much-needed rescue?
(2) Given the imminence of such delay, and allegations pouring in of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh merrily settling in the State, encroaching natural parks and even xatra lands audaciously, how long will the indigenous people, already robbed of their existential rights in several areas, wait for a safe and secure day in the very beloved land of their birth?
Needless to say, the question essentially boils down to the very existence of a people in their very land – which in fact is a blatant violation of their human rights, the right to exist as human beings with basic rights, the rights over their maati and bheti. And when there is neither maati nor bheti, how on earth can anyone talk of any jaati?