The villagers of Laika and Dodhia villages who have been demanding immediate rehabilitation of 1,480 families have said no representative from the district administration or government has approached them.

Braving the cold these protestors have been camping near the deputy commissioner’s office in Tinsukia for the past 15 days.

The Tinsukia district administration also requested the protestors to return home, but they refuse to budge from the spot.

The Laika and Dodhia villages are located inside the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and have been the home to families who were displaced during the great earthquake of 1950.

Also read: Wildlife health and research institute to come up in Tinsukia: Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal

Runumi Ngate, a protestor said, “We will protest till our demand for rehabilitation is fulfilled. We have not been rehabilitated due to the laid-back attitude of the district administration and the Assam government.”

Apio Taid, a member of the Laika and Dodhia Rehabilitation Committee said, “It has been a 70-year-old long struggle for us as we have tried every possible way to ensure proper and permanent rehabilitation.”

“The villagers even boycotted the last state assembly elections as a mark of protest and successive governments have failed to address our issue,” he said.

“We have been living with our families in the makeshift camps for the past 15 days, but no one from the state government or district administration came to us,” said Swarbaboti Taid, another protester.

“We have been deprived of different government schemes and we do not have access to even basic amenities in our village,” she said.

These villagers belong to the Mising tribe and hail from Dhemaji and Dibrugarh districts.

While Laika village falls under the Dibrugarh district, Dodhia village forms part of the Tinsukia district.

However, since India’s Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 prohibits any kind of human settlement within a national park, no development has taken place in these two villages.

Surrounded by the mighty Brahmaputra in the north and the Dibru in the west, these villages are cut off from the mainland and devoid of basic amenities like electricity, water supply, health care and education.

Floods and erosion taking place in the area have also affected these villagers to a great extent.

Off and on for the past several years, residents of the two villages have been staging protests and rallies demanding a permanent settlement.

The Assam government had last year proposed to rehabilitate the families on a 470-hectare plot of land in the Owguri area of the Upper Dihing Reserve Forest.

However, the state forest department objected to the move saying that 7,000 trees will have to be uprooted for clearing the land.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on December 30 last year constituted a committee to find a logical and lasting solution for the rehabilitation of these families.

The chief minister asked the state environment and forest and revenue department to permanently rehabilitate the families by January 31 this year.

Avik Chakraborty

Avik Chakraborty is Northeast Now Correspondent in Dibrugarh. He can be reached at: babs8oct@gmail.com