Two civilians have been killed in the police firing near the Kaziranga National Park on Monday, after locals clashed with police over an eviction drive in the area, according to ANI.
Following a Gauhati High Court order to evict settlers from three villages — Deurchur Chang, Banderdubi and Palkhowa — the state government decided to go ahead with the drive and remove the settlers living around the edges of the national Park, according to a report in The Assam Tribune. The report further stated that the government had deployed more than 1000 security personnel to avoid a stand-off with the locals, who are opposing tooth and nail, the government's drive to evict them from their homes. Section 144 had also been imposed in the area as a preventive to measure to curb the outbreak of violence, according to ANI.
Another report by the Hindustan Times said that the eviction drive was initially scheduled for Wednesday but was preponed by the government to avoid any untoward incident and building up of a local movement against the drive. However, despite the security measures put in place, two people have died in the stand-off while more than 40 civilians have been injured according to CNN-News18. Meanwhile, ANI also reported that around 18 police personnel have also been injured in the clashes.
According to the Hindustan Times report, the officials claimed they had the orders to evict more than 250 families in the area while the Assam forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma said, that the drive was in the greater interest of the wildlife and biodiversity of the Kaziranga National Park. “Those who do not have patta land too would be compensated after considering all the factors,” the report quoted the minister as saying.
Taking cognisance of the increasing cases of poaching in the national park, the Gauhati High Court had taken the view that the villagers settled around the area will be well acquainted with the territory of the park and hence would be in a position to aid and abet poaching in the area, according to The Assam Tribune report.
"There has been persistent and repeated reporting of poaching of rhinoceros, elephants and other wild animals. The habitants in Kaziranga National Park would be well acquainted with the areas and animal movements, therefore they alone would be in a position to do poaching successfully or abet poaching by others. The concept of national park in the Wild Life Act contemplates that there should be no human habitation," the court order was quoted by The Telegraph.
A peasants' rights organisation, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has been opposing the high court's order stating that the villagers living in the area have not encroached upon the land but the boundaries of the park have been extended into the villages, as reported in The Telegraph. The same organisation has been demanding for compensation and a proper rehabilitation for the peasants, warning that "Singur like situation" may arise if the government stays adamant at evicting the villagers, according to The Assam Tribune report. KMSS' chief Akhil Gogoi had earlier pleaded with the Government not to go ahead with the eviction drive, demanding an extension period of three months for the families to decide their future, according to Times of India.
However, another report by The Telegraph quotes a resident as saying that many of the people living in the area are branded as Bangladeshi immigrants by authorities and locals. "Wherever we go, we will be hunted down as Bangladeshis and not allowed to live in peace," the report quotes a villager as saying. Questioning the order to evict them on the argument that they were squatting illegally on the National Park's land, a resident asked that why did the government then hand out land pattas in the region. The report also points out that the area has a government lower primary school which ahead of the eviction drive had been shut down.