The temporary tin-shade where the affected families presently staying.(image captured by Neharul Ahmed Mazumder)
This is a report based on a fact-finding visit to Rajhnikhal village where 80 famalies are left shelterless due to sudden and inhuman eviction by the Forest Department conducted by BHRPC team consisting of Mrs. Swapna Bhattacharjee, Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das, Mr. Dipankar Chanda, Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, Mr. Rofie Ahmed and Miss. Taniya Sultana Laskar.
It was just after the Eid-ul-fitoor was celebrated in the valley a shocking video of an eviction drive carried out in a Rajnikhal village under Dholai Constituency of Cachar District went viral in the social media. The local news papers also published stories on that during the following days. After coming across the news news BHRPC formed a facts finding team and visited Rajnikhal on 18/06/19 afternoon.
Rajnikhal village is located in an interior area, almost 35 kilometers away along the NH 54 (old) NH no. 306 (new) from Silchar Town under Narshingpur Block of Dholai Constituency in Cachar District. According to the District Census Handbook published by the Directorate of Census Operation, Assam, the Permanent Location Code Number of Rajnikhal village is 299636 in the Census of 2011. The same census also informs that the said Rajhnikhal village has a population of 412 person containing in 83 households. According to that same survey it has 0 forest areas and 3.4 uncultivated land. All the inhabitants of that village belong to Muslim community and from Other Backward Class. They basically live upon the agriculture and related sources like fishing, farming, poultry and animal husbandry. But the villagers got a notice on 21/05/2019 to leave the village within 7 days issued by the Local Forest In-charge, Hawaitang range or steps will be taken against them. Seeing the notice there was a big hue and cry in the village. The inhabitants of the village like Lekoi Mia, Ynus Ali, etc started running pillar to post with the request to suspend the notice. They met every political representative of the area to save the roof above the heads of their children but no results.
The house of Mr. Anam Uddin(41years) and Mrs. Saleha Begum(35years) seen in the picture with their 10 years old son Faruk Hussain . (Image captured by Neharul Ahmed Mazumder.)
On 06/06/ 2019 around 250 people from the forest department came armored with 11 elephants and almost 500 para-military force and forcibly demolished their houses including the village masque and school, perished their crops and vegetable gardens, cut almost all the fruit trees including thousands of battle nuts trees which resulted in almost full abrogation of their source of income. The demolition process started from 9 am and the forces left the village at around 3 p.m at the afternoon. They left penniless and now leaving under a tinshade a little away from the village with their family including infants and children. One person namely Jitendra Koiri allowed them to stay temporarily in his piece of land. In this rainy season these people are in a really helpless and vulnerable situation.
Behind is the house constructed under Indira Awas Yojuna owned by late Mazammil Ali. Front house is a kachha house owned by Mr. Ala Uddin .His mother Razibun Nessa(62years) and his son Solman Uddin can be seen in the photo captured by Neharul Ahmed Mazumder.
Our team found that almost all the houses of the village were demolished including 11 Indira Awas and PM awas houses. “We are paying the Gaon Panchayet taxes regularly. We didn’t have to obtain any kind of NOC from the Forest to obtain the indira awas houses or any other government aid. Then, why this sudden eviction” asked Yunus Ali with tears in his eyes. Four pakka well which were constructed under the MNREGA scheme were also demolished that day. The Shongjogi Sikhsa Kendra established in the village by the government was also demolished which is in violation of the right to education of the children belonging to the village. We have interviewed 9 pregnant women in the village who are exposed to serious health risk due to the eviction. In this crucial stage of their life they are leaving without a roof upon their head and eating kichdri once in a day. The names of those women are:-
- Najma Begum, W/o- Rashid Ahmed.
- Sahanara Begum, W/o- Yasin Ali.
- Abjana Begum, W/o- Ramij Uddin.
- Rumi Begum W/o- Najrul Hussain.
- Reksona Begum,W/o- Misba Uddin.
- Anjona Begum, W/o- Ali Hussain Laskar.
- Mumina Begum, W/o- Nur Uddin,
- Afsana Begum,W/o- Gias Uddin.
- Rustana Begum, W/o- Ajmal Uddin.
An image of the preparation of meal for that day captured by Taniya Sultana Laskar.
There are almost 150 children who stopped going to the school since their school is demolished and now occupied by some of the sheterless families. The families also lost major portion of their source of income and now in risk of disease caused by starvation and malnutrition. There are 7 children including one especially able child namely Salman Ahmed S/o- Sultan Ahmed who have some chronic diseases like Astama, and who are exposed to a bigger health risk. The women in general are in risk of sanitation and menstruation related disease.
Hafiza Begum is a 3 year old girl suffering from severe asthma sleeping in a floor prepared with bamboo.
A pillar bearing signboard of a MNREGA work done in the village (image captured by Neharul Ahmed Mazumder)
From the above findings, it is clear that:-
- The demolition was prima facie illegal as no adequate notice had been provided.The villagers alleged that the village is not at all a forest village or situated in forest land.
- Undue excessive force was deployed to carry out the demolitions.
- The forced eviction which has rendered thousands homeless constitutes violation of the Supreme Court judgments which uphold that the right to shelter as a constituent of the fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution.
- The demolition has affected access to education of the children in the village and constitutes gross violation of fundamental right to education of the children.
A girl namely Rushnu Begum affected with some unknown diseases.
(Image captured by Taniya Sultana Laskar)
- An inquiry procedure should be drawn against forest personnel who used undue force against the residents and suppressed their rightful expressions of dissent.
- The Forest Department should compensate the people for the economic losses incurred by them due to this illegal demolition of their property and reinstate them as soon as possible.
- The authorities should carry out a survey of the residents in the village along with the participation of people and draw a plan for rehabilitating and housing.
- Sincere attempts need to be made to reconcile the right to shelter of the people with environmental concerns.
- A minimum needs scheme should be prepared and allotment of land should be done for all landless people of the country.