'Proposed move will be a death knell'
GUWAHATI: The State government's proposed ordinance by which all agricultural lands in Assam will be opened up to industries without any restrictions — except for a self certification — is a death knell for not only the agriculturalists but also the 115 small indigenous ethnic communities in Assam, said Upamanyu Hazarika, Convenor of Prabajan Virodhi Manch on Wednesday.
He further said in a press release, "The proposed ordinance with barely nine months remaining for the 2021 elections, is a clear attempt by the ruling political class to gather funds from land speculators and enrich themselves.
"For a Government which came to power on the slogan of 'Jati, Mati, Bheti' i.e., protection of indigenous' rights and land, not only has it failed; but taken proactive steps as in the present policy to destroy indigenous identity.
"The Committee constituted under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord for safeguarding indigenous identity, whose report submitted nearly four months ago has not only not been implemented, but not even made public.
"The priority ought to have been — and for which the indigenous voted for the current Government — was to clear lands under encroachment by the Bangladeshis, PGR/VGR land, 4 lakh hectares out of the 17 lakh hectares of forest land admitted by the Forest department under encroachment, protection of small indigenous communities in their areas of habitation by protecting their land rights etc."
The Convenor of Prabajan Virodhi Manch added, "This opening up of all lands for non-agricultural use is in clear violation of the 'Assam Agricultural Land (Regulation of Re-classification and Transfer for non-agricultural purpose) Act, 2015' which protects agricultural land from non-agricultural use through various prohibitions and restrictions."
Hazarika further stated, "How has the situation changed in the last five years that a u-turn is necessary? In the last five years, more lands have gone under Bangladeshi encroachment under the active patronage of the present Government and it is the remaining agricultural in the hands of the indigenous people in Middle and Upper Assam, which this policy will ensure goes out of the hands of the indigenous.
"The Tiwa community has been one of the first victims of Bangladeshi infiltration, they being displaced from many places in Nagaon district and the recent establishment of an industrial belt in the Sonapur-Morigaon belt has further deprived them of their land threatening their identity. Such instances with other communities will only multiply if the proposed ordinance is brought about.
"With nine months to go about for the elections, it is clear that the ruling political class in their greed for money is willing to sell the interests of their own people as they have always."