Adivasis, settled in the Langsung forest area of Assam for 50 years, are ruthlessly evicted by the forest department.
The world seems to constantly be at war with itself. Political schemes vs. development ideology. Big industry vs. the environment. The environment vs. indigenous peoples. Those who lose out, most frequently, in these complex and thunderous games played by invisible giants, are the poorest, the most socially vulnerable, the politically weak. Today, Anupama from Assam tells a searing tale about 14,000 people who were forcibly removed from their homes in the Langsung forest area by the forest department, who without prior warning, torched down their houses, livestock and granaries.
Even though this happened in October 2010, Anupama says that nothing has been done to rectify the situation. No officials have been charged, no one has been rehabilitated. It is as if, having destroyed their livelihood, these people don’t exist anymore. Google searches reveal nothing about the eviction itself, it seems to have been deleted from the memories of the press and those who instigated it. Anupama’s final statement reiterates her motive behind this news report: she isn’t asking for help, she’s just reminding us that something tragic happened. These stories, she says, should not be left to die.
Globally, the typical response to the exploitation and destruction of forest areas has been to focus on the environmental concerns rather than the immediate humanitarian issue of the slow elimination of tribal peoples living in and around the forest areas. Adivasis constitute approximately 8% of the Indian population, and about 40-50% of those displaced due to internal development projects. It is not clear why the forest department conducted this ruthless eviction without prior warning – one must consider the huge economic value of forest resources and products. That is not to say that they were unjustified in removing these people from land which is government territory, but the atrocious callousness and complete disregard for the community’s future is what is appalling.
In the absence of a proper national policy on internally displaced people and refugees within its borders, the Indian government continues to be a cruel and cold-hearted villain in the way it conducts its development policies. How many more times are people going to be made homeless with no compensation or rehabilitation? How many more incidents like the one in Anupama’s video will take place before someone is called out? Before responsibility is accepted, and alternative strategies adopted? No one knows. But what will continue to happen, through video reports such as these, and in greater volume and with louder voices, are the pleas of these people for justice.