Food for thought

Narendra Modi


Eviction drives are conducted as a last resort when all other efforts by the administration fail to make residents leave the area in question. Since people will be forcibly dispossessed of hearth and home, care needs to be taken to prevent untoward incidents. But often the authority uses shock and awe tactics to forestall resistance, which only end up triggering ugly confrontations. Such a scene unfolded at Lankajan at the border between Karbi Anglong autonomous council and Hojai district on Monday night. The area being disputed, the Hojai deputy commissioner had reportedly written to the State chief secretary not to permit the drive till the State government clearly demarcates the boundary between KAAC and Hojai district. Apart from the likely humanitarian fallout, there would be the difficulty of arranging new polling booths for nearly 7,000 voters of the area in next month’s poll. But as the powers-be in Dispur sat over the matter, the KAAC authority went ahead with the drive and demolished settlements. In the melee, CRPF personnel cane-charged protesters, some of them women. One woman nearing full term of her pregnancy was allegedly hit repeatedly and collapsed. She delivered her baby on the spot and both were rushed to the hospital at Lanka by locals. But she succumbed, her death igniting spontaneous protests in the area. Gauhati High Court later passed a stay order, the drive has been suspended, but the tragedy was avoidable. No lessons have been learned from such drives earlier, as at Amchang and Kaziranga. In those two cases, people evicted were later shown to have been genuine victims of river erosion. In a State where no land survey has been carried out for decades, lack of a fair and transparent land policy provides loopholes for those in power to strike unholy deals with shady operators. Eviction drives are legitimized against those alleged to be encroachers or aliens. Even if true, can it be a policy that they be forced to survive in the open? Somewhere, somehow, they must find shelter. It is a basic human right, which if denied, will keep causing tragedies. Application of mind and taking due care are a must before undertaking such drives.