‘Proposed Land Ordinance’ a threat to Indigenous People: Upamanyu

Guwahati: The proposed ordinance, by which all agricultural land in Assam is opened upto to industries without any restrictions except for a self-certification, is a death knell for not only agriculturalists but the 115 small indigenous ethnic communities in Assam, claimed Prabajan Virodhi Manch Convenor and Senior Advocate Upamanyu Hazarika on Wednesday.

Hazarika in a press statement stated that the proposed ordinance with barely 9 months remaining for the 2021 elections is a clear attempt by the ruling political class to gather funds from land speculators and enrich themselves.

“For a Government which came to power on the slogan of "Jati, Mati, Bheti" i.e. protection of indigenous rights and land, not only has it failed but taken proactive steps as in the present policy to destroy indigenous identity,” said Hazarika.

The Committee constituted under clause 6 of the Assam Accord for safeguarding indigenous identity, whose report submitted nearly 4 months ago has not only not been implemented, but not even made public. The priority ought to have been and for which the indigenous voted for the current Government, was to clear lands under encroachment by Bangladeshis, PGR/VGR land, 4 lakh hectrares out of the 17 lakh hectares of forest land admitted by the forest department under encroachment, protection of small indigenous communities in their areas of habitation by protecting their land rights etc, Hazarika claimed.

“This pernicious opening up all land for non-agricultural use is in clear violation of the Assam Agricultural Land (Regulation of Re-classification and Transfer for non-agricultural purpose) Act, 2015 which protects agricultural land for non-agricultural use through various prohibitions and restrictions. How has the situation changed in the last 5 years that a u-turn is necessary? In the last 5 years more land has gone under Bangladeshi encroachment under the active patronage of the present Government and it is the remaining agricultural in the hands of the indigenous people in Middle and Upper Assam, which this policy will ensure goes out of the hands of the indigenous,” added Hazarika.

Hazarika also mentioned that the Tiwa community has been one of the first victims of Bangladeshi infiltration, they being displaced from many places in Nagaon district and the recent establishment of an industrial belt in the Sonapur-Morigaon belt has further deprived them of their land threatening their identity. Such instances with other communities will only multiply if the proposed ordinance is brought about.

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