Guwahati: Assam was not used to houses being bulldozed, mass evictions and multi-storied buildings razed to the ground within hours. However, since the last two years, the scenario has changed dramatically soon after Himanta Biswa Sarma took charge as the chief minister.
Bulldozer driving has become a common practice in Assam these days. Here and there, news of evictions have made regular appearances in the media.
Though the ‘bulldozer-trend’ has already sparked a lot of controversy, the state government is in no mood to give up even after the High Court slammed the move.
Sarma has reiterated several times that his machinery will not stop till every occupied area is cleared of ‘illegal encroachments’.
Some private madrassas were demolished by district authorities in lower Assam over alleged links with Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Bangladesh-based terror outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT).
The state government left no stone unturned to demolish these madrasas.
Badruddin Ajmal, Lok Sabha MP and leader of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) once reacted to a demolition drive against madrassas by saying: “Madrassas are public property which cannot be bulldozed without any legal notice . Even the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has stopped the use of bulldozers.”
Officials said the madrassas had to be demolished as they were constructed in violation of building codes in the state.
In September, 2021, a violent clash broke out between police officials of Darrang district and locals of Gorukhuti in Sipajhar revenue division during an eviction drive in Dholpur area, resulting in police firing.
At least two protesters were killed and twelve others were injured in the incident.
Authorities in Assam’s Nagaon district destroyed the homes of several families accused of setting fire to the Batadrava police station in May last year.
The police and administration took the step after a mob set ablaze a part of the Batadrava police station in the district in response to the alleged custodial death of a local fish seller.
Later, the Gauhati High Court reprimanded the Assam government for taking suo moto cognizance of the matter relating to the use of bulldozers on the houses of the accused in the Batadrava police station arson case.
The court questioned the state government on the legal basis of using bulldozers.
The court then told the government’s counsel: “You (state government) show us any criminal law under which police can bulldoze a person without any order while investigating a crime.”
The two judges of the bench also said, “Nobody is safe in the country if such actions are allowed.”
The government had to assure the court that appropriate action would be taken against the officials who bulldozed the houses of the accused.
However, all this could not stop the Assam government machinery from bulldozing.
Last week too, in Cachar district, a good number of houses were razed by the administration even though residents claimed they had ‘proper’ documents for the buildings, without verifying the papers.