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Leader of Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly and senior Congress leader Debabrata Saikia has slammed the Assam Forest department for issuing notice to evict people residing in the periphery area of Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in Guwahati.

In a letter to Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, Saikia termed the move as inhuman because of the current situation due to COVID-19 outbreak. He added that the issue in at the Gauhati High Court.

“I am worried with this development. Already a committee constituted by the state government had submitted its report saying this area included under revenue villages. Apart from that, the issue of eviction at the Amchang area is a sub-judicial matter. So, how can the department carry on the eviction? And the biggest issue is that during the current pandemic situation because of the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s inhuman to evict the poor people when the nation is under lockdown,” Saikia said in the letter.

Earlier, the notice issued by the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Guwahati Wildlife Division, on May 8, has given a deadline of 15 days to all ‘encroachers’ in the sanctuary to free wildlife lands under their illegal occupation. The notice specifically stated that the ‘encroachers have constructed houses or set up establishments within the sanctuary’.

The Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over approximately 78 square km, is divided into Khanapara Range (25 sq km) and the Bonda Range (53 sq km).

The Sentinel newspaper quoted an unnamed forest official that they had carried out eviction drives against 700 families at Batahghuli, Yusuf Nagar, Kangkan Nagar, and Nabajyoti Nagar under the Khanapara Range in 2017, following a court order.

“However, the residents moved the Gauhati High Court against the drives. The eviction drives had to be halted after the high court issued a stay order. Now, taking advantage of the lockdown, while these encroachers have started construction works; many others have started occupying fresh areas within the sanctuary. Mention may be made of the Janasimalu area,” the official was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

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