GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has directed that the tribal belts and blocks in Assam should be made encroachment free as soon as possible.
During a hearing in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL 78/2012) case, the divisional bench of Chief Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Arun Dev Choudhury especially directed the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) authority to ensure that measures are taken to make tribal belts and blocks free from all encroachers. The BTC authority has also been asked to inform the court about the steps taken in this regard at the next hearing in the case on June 23, 2023.
The BTC authority had sought time from the court to carry out eviction drives to free tribal belts and blocks from illegal occupation by non-tribals and others. The BTC authority informed the court that 300 bighas of land had been made encroachment free. However, the court was not satisfied. The petitioner’s counsel, S Borthakur told the court that the affidavit submitted by the BTC authority was silent regarding the steps taken to evict encroachers in the Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri districts.
There are 17 tribal belts and 30 tribal blocks in Assam and according to the All Assam Tribal Sangha (AATS), 4 lakh bighas of land in these tribal belts and blocks have been encroached upon. In the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), around 80,000 bighas of land are under encroachment.
The High Court has repeatedly directed the Assam Government and the BTC authority to evict non-tribals and other persons “not eligible to hold possession of land” in the tribal belts and blocks protected under Chapter X of Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886. The court had also ordered the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of districts having tribal belts and blocks to evict all non-tribal and other people illegally occupying tribal belts and blocks, following the due process of law. But for various reasons, this has not been possible.
Last month, the All Assam Tribal Sangha had written a letter to the Assam Government wherein it was stated that despite the High Court’s order, the steps that should have been taken by the government to evict encroachers from tribal belts and blocks in nine districts of the State and the BTR, have not been taken.
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