What Do Assam Evictions Say About Lack of Social Security for the Landless?
How do these eviction drives affect lives and livelihoods of landless marginalised people?
In a very shocking and saddening incident from Assam, at least two people were reported dead in police firing and nine injured, after violent clashes broke out on 23 September, during an eviction drive in Darrang district.
Disturbing videos of the clashes between the locals and police from the eviction drive that have surfaced online, give a glimpse into unrestrained police brutality.
One particular video that has drawn a lot of anger, shows policemen firing at the residents of Sipajhar area, when a lone local charges at them with a stick. And, in this mayhem he is then seen being thrashed brutally by the police even as his body lies motionless.
While this incident of violence has drawn a lot of reprobation from ordinary citizens, activists, and politicians alike, the eviction drive itself is also raising a lot of questions.
Over the past few months, the Assam government has embarked on an anti-encroachment drive that has rendered hundreds of people from socially and economically marginalised communities homeless.
But unlike the previous eviction drives, the recent one that began from 20 September, is seen to be a far bigger exercise to clear 4,500 bighas of encroached land that according to the Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma's own tweet, has left people from 800 households homeless.
This raises several questions:
Firstly, with a large number of the displaced families being Muslims of Bengali origins, is the Assam government's anti-encroachment drive likely to heighten polarisation in the state?
Secondly, with a recent analytical report from the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) also pointing out that nearly 21 people were evicted every hour in the pandemic months between March 2020 and July 2021, what kind of a commentary do these evictions from Assam and other parts of India present on the lack of social security for the landless? How do these acts affect lives and livelihoods of marginalised people?
Thirdly, how should authorities go about evictions without impinging on the dignity of living? What are the safeguards required to ensure that such drives don't leave people with nowhere to go?
Our guests for this episode are Suraj Gogoi, PhD scholar of Sociology at the National University of Singapore; Manish, a lawyer and researcher at the Centre for Policy Research; and Mukta Joshi, Legal Associate at Land Conflict Watch.
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