Govt must protect land from illegal migrants: Brahma

R Dutta Choudhury
 GUWAHATI, Sept 21 – If the Government cannot protect its own house, outsiders will definitely try to intrude into it to create trouble, observed former Chief Election Commissioner HS Brahma, who is heading the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam. He also admitted that it is possible for foreigners to get their names included in the voters’ list in collusion of officials at the lower level.Talking to The Assam Tribune, Brahma expressed the view that the failure of the Government to protect the reserve forests and other Government land from encroachment is very unfortunate and suspected illegal migrants have taken advantage of the situation. He said that the Government should immediately protect land from encroachment and land pattas should be given to landless indigenous people so that outsiders and suspected illegal immigrants cannot encroach upon it.

In its interim report the Committee headed by Brahma had alleged that illegal migrants managed to grab Government and other land in active support of political leaders and fundamentalist forces. The report also said that a section of political leaders and corrupt bureaucrats were involved in transfer of land to outsiders. When asked to comment on the issue, Brahma expressed the view that it would not have been possible for the illegal migrants to enter India and stay here without connivance of some Indians. “Over the years, the illegal migrants have encroached upon forest land and other Government land. Even tribal belts were occupied. It could not have been possible without active support of political leaders and some officials. Can I go to Bangladesh or Pakistan illegally and stay there without receiving any active support from anyone in those countries,” he added.

Brahma said that members of the Committee visited different parts of the State and spoke at length to cross sections of indigenous people before submitting its interim report. He admitted that the situation is bad in a number of districts. Even in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Council area, the situation is bad because of illegal occupation of Government land by outsiders. The situation is also very bad in some other districts including Barpeta, Nagaon, Morigaon etc and the Government must take immediate steps in this regard, he said.

At the same time, Brahma alleged that some political leaders were trying to “twist” the facts given in the report. “I have heard some political leaders saying that in the interim report, the Committee had reported that illegal Muslim migrants had become majority in 15 districts of the State. We never mentioned such matter in the report and only expressed concern over the fact that illegal migration is posing a threat to the identity of the indigenous people. There was no mention in the report about the number of districts. One should read the report properly before making any comment on it,” he said.

The former Chief Election Commissioner also expressed his displeasure at a statement by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who questioned what Brahma did as the CEC to detect foreigners. Brahma said that it is not the responsibility of the Election Commission to detect and deport foreigners. As a former Chief Minister, Gogoi should know the responsibilities and limitations of the Commission.

Brahma admitted that though the laws of the land clearly define that only Indian citizens above the age of 18 years can cast votes, it is possible for the foreigners to get their names included in the electoral rolls in collusion at the lower level and it is difficult for the Election Commission to ensure that such irregularities do not take place at the ground level. He said that when he was the Chief Election Commissioner, there were around three lakh doubtful voters in the electoral rolls of the State and “I have come to know that the number of D voters is still over one lakh.”

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