Where does a poor indigenous person go when he/she is pushed out of his/her home and rendered homeless by vicious floods…..?
Where does a migrant who have recently come to the city looking for better source of income go…..?
Both the above mentioned class belong to the most disadvantageous groups in the social ladder. They have no choice but to either make live in the roads, below over bridges in the city, or in abandoned homes or land up in slums. This time, they did not want to do that and occupied a hill in corner of then Guwahati and got settled. They neither knew that they had to take government permission to do so nor felt the need of doing do, because all their hopes that the government would take care of them had by then been shattered. The recent mass eviction drive in the hills of Narkasur and Panjabari in Guwahati was directed against these groups of people. It also highlighted the fact that the government consider them mere secondary citizens who deserve to stay in roads and slums but own a plot of land in the otherwise city of riches-Guwahati. The indigenous people and the laboring poor have been living in those hills for decades, and can even claim right over the lands under the provisions of the forest rights act. But the Assam government did not give them a chance to tell the stories of their agony nor bothered to listen to them and brutally launched the massive eviction drive.
The Indian state has time and again been intolerant towards dissenting voices. They have never refrained from using coercive means to silence these voices in every corner of the country. The brutal means adopted by the state of Assam on the 22nd of June, 2011 to silence the protestors on the streets of Guwahati, protesting against the eviction clearly highlighted the undemocratic character of the state. The Assam police working under the direction of the home minister cum chief minister of the state opened fire at the crowd under the leadership of KMSS and killed three people injuring many more. Akhil Gogoi, the General Secretary of KMSS and the popular face of the movement was also arrested when he was addressing a press conference. What democracy do we talk of where even talking to reporters were considered a crime enough for arrest. The home minister opined that the agitating crowd had turned into a furious mob vandalizing public property and had taken to militant tactics, which forced the government to open fire at the mob. While the agitators claim that it the militant acts were performed by the cadres of congress to tarnish the image of the movement and prepare grounds for the government to use their oppressive tactics. Tarun Gogoi did not even refrain from shamelessly threatening all those, who supported Akhil Gogoi and KMSS with dire consequences which may even lead to death.
A very fundamental question that arises at this scenario is why the government is suddenly awaking up now, while the occupants have been living there since decades. It indicates that it is one of the increasing lobbies of the builders and developers which have forced the government to take this action. There are evidences of many political leaders grabbing lands, with a few even occupying an entire hill and running their commercial ventures from the hills. Why does this fail to raise any action from the part of the government? A question that awaits an answer..!!!. Were the demands of KMSS for stalling the eviction drive and asking for an inquiry such an undemocratic demand for the government to take that brutal step?
The recent act of the Assam government has garnered massive public opinion against the state. It has served a purpose at least by bringing in solidarity among the protesters and the common people of Assam who are now determined to bring forth democratic government in the state. Petitions are being filed; massive discussions are taking place in public forums; and people are bonding over virtual forums launching support forums for KMSS and the common people of Assam. We can only hope that justice is given to the people and democracy is brought forth in the increasingly dictatorial state.
As a resident of one of the hills put it, “We have witnessed massive displacement and have been homeless before, we do not want to be homeless again. It has been natural forces before and we just wish that this time it’s not our own government. We have nowhere else to go. Thus, we are left with no choice but to take on the streets and demand for our rights…”