Post-Lumding eviction: How to stay in a relief camp?
Sohidul Alom reports from Doboka
Doboka: The first cold wave of the season that has hit the state strong has doubled the miseries of thousands of landless people in Assam. These people are the recent victims who lost everything to the eviction drives carried out by Assam government in order to free government forest land.
The district administration of Hojai cleared out 1410 hectares of land in Lumding Reserve Forest in a five-day-long eviction drive in the early part of November. According to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswea Sarma, a total of 736 houses were evicted from the forest.
Among those evicted, about 204 families are provided with a temporary relief camp in a grazing reserve in Changmaji village under Doboka Revenue Circle- A recently harvested rice field with sharp stubbles. They do not have a roof above their heads, no source of safe drinking water, absolutely no access to toilets. The families are entirely dependent upon the rationing provided by NGOs, student organizations and local people for the past few days.
“No sleep, no water, no treatment. The government should either kill us or save us.” said a woman whose 10-year-old child was sleeping on the ground. He looked visibly sick.
The increasing cold has left them helpless, especially the elderly people and children. During the daytime, the children were seen sleeping on the ground, babies in the lap of hungry mothers.
“The government had said that if we let them break our houses peacefully, they would, in return let us harvest our paddies and vegetables and let us take those with us. Now they don’t let us enter the paddy fields. The vegetables perished, chilies got ripened. They are now unfit to sell in the market. The one or two people that the administration allowed to enter were barred from bringing any vehicle. Now how will they bring back those harvests?”
Amidst chaos, small children were seen helping their mothers’ build temporary houses by helping in bringing soil in small pots. Some kids were seen napping in their mothers’ lap. Some were seen trying to douse hunger by eating rice puffs sprinkled with little sugar. Some were seen busy playing around totally unaware of struggled lying ahead.
Manowar Hussain, a leader of All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU), present with the victims said, “Not 204, but there are 420 families staying in this place. The government just showed the place. These families have put some tents by themselves. Most of these people are sick.”
According to him, many of the evicted people are falling sick due to the lack of sanitation and clean water.
“A few days back, we had organized a camp for these people. The doctors examined 585 people and gave on-site treatment. But this is not enough. I have requested the district administration to arrange some toilet seats for the people. It has promised to give that. We have also requested hand pumps for water. The local people are trying to help on humanitarian ground.”
According to the Assam government over 3.6 lakh people of the state are homeless. Flood, erosion, and ethnic conflict are the three main reasons of internal displacement in Assam.
“We have been living in the forest since the Prafulla Mahanta-led AGP Government. These people are the victims of flood and erosion. Also, there are people here who are victims of ethnic conflicts in Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Barpeta districts. The government has the responsibility to provide food, clothes, and shelter to its citizens. However, in this case, we have not been provided with rehabilitation.”
Kalim Uddin, General Secretary of the Assam State Jamiat Ulema (Maulana Mushtaq Anfar) whose members have been visiting the evicted people and providing ration said, “Those who are sleeping inside the comfort of their blankets, with their children, please come once and see how these people are living here. I urge people, irrespective of religion caste, and creed, to come and see these people once.
The local people in Changmajhi village were seen cutting vegetables, cooking rice and black tea on the site of the relief camp. They had also arranged some chairs for the elderly people.
“Since yesterday we have provided rice and biscuits. We have been cooking rice since yesterday to feed these people. There is no supply yet from the government”, said a local of Changmajhi village.